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Turkey arrest of journalists counterproductive: Pundit

The editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily Can Dundar (R) and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul speak to media as they arrive at the Istanbul courthouse for their trial on April 1, 2016. (AFP photo)

Press TV has interviewed William Beeman, professor at University of Minnesota in Beirut, about a Turkish court resuming the trial of two prominent journalists charged with espionage activities over revealing Turkey’s support to militants in Syria.

The following is a rough transcription of the interview.

Press TV: How do you feel about this trial?

Beeman: I think that President Erdogan has been under siege really for several years now and the difficulty that he faces is that he is in fact supporting the rebel groups in Syria who he hopes will contain Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS or IS or Daesh, depending on which language you are talking about and this has all been done very surreptitiously despite the pleadings of the United States and other Western powers to stop the incursion from Turkey to supporting the rebels in Syria, it does continue in Turkey.

So it is a very difficult situation for Turkey and also for the West in order to try to get on the same page with regard to how ISIS or IS or Daesh is going to be contradicted, at the same time for Turkey protecting their interests in trying to contain Kurdish rebels.

Press TV: I imagine the goal here was to stop the publication of such footage and to stop any future such publications as well but isn’t this just bringing more attention to the issue instead?

Beeman: In fact that is the case and what we have, we have a saying in English in the United States and that is ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’ and so when journalists actually point out things that are going on surreptitiously, it is frequently very embarrassing for governments who are carrying on these surreptitious operations.

And so this is what has happened. The government has tried to shut these journalists down as a warning to other journalists not to publish such material and as a result they have drawn more attention to the situation than ever before, so it has been counterproductive for them.  

Press TV: And is there any sign at all that the Turkish government may revisit its such policy of supporting who you call rebels in Syria?

Beeman: Well certainly the United States should be bringing a lot of pressure on Turkey to do this but you see how difficult the situation is. Turkey is one of the places where refugees from Syria have the largest, one of the largest populations in the world and not only that but the European Union is sending refugees from Greece, they are trying to send refugees from Greece back to Turkey.

So Turkey comes to the United States and comes to the European Union and says, ‘if you pressure us on our situation with regard to the Syrian rebels or with regard to oppression of the Kurds, we are just not going to take these refugees anymore, it is going to be your problem again’. So they want cooperation from Turkey and the price of cooperation from Turkey is reduced criticism from the European Union and from the United States.


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