Obama calls Turkey’s treatment of journalists ‘very troubling’

President Obama on Friday called out Turkish President Recep Erdogan, saying his policies toward journalists have been “troubling.”

{mosads}During a press conference following the Nuclear Security Summit, Obama was asked if he believed Erdogan is an authoritarian.

“I have expressed this to him directly so it’s no secret, that there are some trends within Turkey that I have been troubled with,” Obama said.

“I am a strong believer in freedom of the press. I’m a strong believer in freedom of religion. I’m a strong believer in rule of law and democracy,” he continued. “There is no doubt that President Erdogan has been repeatedly elected through a democratic process, but I think the approach that they’ve been taking towards the press is one that could lead Turkey down a path that would be very troubling.”

On Thursday, a policy discussion featuring the Turkish president at the Brookings Institute was overshadowed by clashes between his security detail and protesters. His bodyguards also reportedly kicked out a Turkish journalist who has been critical of him.

In the press conference Friday, Obama called on Erdogan to pursue a policy of “openness.”

“I’ve said to President Erdogan to remind him that he came into office with a promise of democracy and Turkey has historically been a country in which deep Islamic faith has lived side-by-side with modernity and an increasing openness, and that’s the legacy he should pursue, rather than a strategy that involves repression of information and shutting down democratic debate,” he said.

In his remarks, Obama also praised Turkey, a NATO ally, calling the country a vital partner in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“It is an extraordinarily important partner in our fight against ISIL, it is a country with whom we have a long and strategic relationship,” he said. “And President Erdogan is someone who I’ve dealt with since I came into office, and in a whole range of areas we’ve had a productive partnership.”

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Obama said that both countries should work out their differences.

“As is true with a lot of our friends and partners, we work with them, we cooperate with them, we are appreciative of their efforts, and there are gonna be some differences. And where there are differences, we will say so and that’s what I’ve tried to do here.”


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