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EU report on Turkey to flag “relapse” on press freedom – newspaper

Supporters of Cumhuriyet newspaper, an opposition secularist daily, hold placards during a protest in front of its headquarters in Istanbul

A European Commission report on Turkey’s progress towards European Union membership cites problems with press freedoms and independence of the judiciary, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung said on Sunday.

The German newspaper said that the report, to be published on Wednesday, described “a significant relapse” in press freedom and said legal decisions over national security and the fight against terrorism were applied “selectively and randomly.”

It also cited signficant concerns about the many Turkish journalists who have been arrested and media outlets that have been shut down since the failed July 15 coup, the newspaper said, citing a copy of the report.

European officials have been increasingly critical of Turkey’s crackdown on those it suspects of involvement in the attempted coup. More than 110,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants have been detained or suspended in a response that critics say is quashing legitimate opposition.

Some 170 newspapers, magazines, TV stations and news agencies have been closed, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed, Turkey’s association of journalists says.

The European Commission report also says there has been a relapse in the independence of the judiciary, noting that one fifth of judges and prosecutors had been dismissed after the attempted putsch, the paper said.

It said some of those arrested had been held for up to 30 days before being brought before a judge during the state of emergency imposed after the failed coup.

The report also raises “very serious questions” about the Turkish government’s collective actions against people suspected of ties to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of instigating the coup attempt.

It said vague criteria raised the appearance that people were being arrested due to mere “association” with Gulen rather any specific individual actions.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.

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