EU’s Tusk: Turkey’s Erdogan needs thicker skin

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan needs to chill out and grow a thicker skin when it comes to criticism against him, the European Union’s Donald Tusk said.

“The line between criticism, insult and defamation is very thin and relative. The moment politicians begin to decide which is which can mean the end of the freedom of expression, in Europe, in Turkey, in Africa, in Russia, everywhere,” Tusk, the former prime minister of Poland who chairs EU summits, said on April 23 when asked about Erdogan’s legal moves against media critics and a German comedian.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Tusk said: “As a politician, I have learned and accepted to have a thick skin and I have no expectation that the press will treat me with special care; quite the opposite.”

Recalling his own jailing in the 1980s for opposing Poland’s communist government, Tusk recalled that Erdogan, too, had been imprisoned in 1999 for criticizing Turkey’s then rulers.

“Thirty years ago, I was imprisoned for being critical of the regime,” Tusk said. “My good friend, President Erdogan, 15 years later also had a similar experience for expressing his views.”

Turkish prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people for insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014, the justice minister said last month.

Meanwhile, on a Dutch journalist was blocked from leaving Turkey on April 24 following her arrest on April 23 for tweets deemed critical of Erodgan.

“Police at the door. No joke,” wrote Ebru Umar, a well-known atheist and feminist journalist of Turkish origin wrote on her Twitter account.

Umar, who has been an outspoken critic of militant Islam, recently wrote a piece critical of Erdogan for the Dutch daily Metro, extracts of which she then tweeted, leading to her arrest.

She later said she was “free but forbidden to leave the country.”

Dutch blog Geenstijl said it had received a message from Umar saying that she was arrested after someone reported her tweets on a hotline set up by Turkish officials.

Last week, a German reporter was detained at an Istanbul airport and sent back to Cairo where he is based. Authorities also denied entry into Turkey for Russian news agency Sputnik’s Istanbul-based general manager.

Umar’s case follows outrage in Germany after the government there allowed authorities to begin criminal proceedings against popular comic Jan Bohmermann for performing a satirical poem about Erdogan.

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