Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his discontent with U.S. President Barack Obama’s light criticism of eroding press freedoms in Turkey.
“I have been saddened that this kind of statement has been made in my absence. These issues did not come up on the agenda in our meeting with Mr. Obama,” Erdoğan told a group of journalists on April 2, as he was wrapping up a visit to the U.S. capital where he attended the Nuclear Security Summit.
Obama met Erdoğan in Washington for closed door talks on March 31. As of April 1, Obama said it was “no secret” he was troubled by “some trends” within Turkey.
“I think the approach they have been taking toward the press is one that could lead Turkey down a path that would be very troubling,” he said, speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit.
The U.S. leader also noted that he had expressed these sentiments to Erdoğan “directly.”
However, Erdoğan has insisted that no such comment was made by Obama during their meeting.
“I have not been told this kind of thing. Besides, in our previous telephone conversations, we agreed that talking face to face would be more useful rather than talking through press,” Erdoğan said.
“As I have stated in my speech at the Brookings Institute, there is need to make a distinction between criticism and insult. Here, during my meeting with opinion leaders, I explained them with examples. In some newspapers in Turkey, headlines calling the president as ‘murderer, robber’ are being written. Threats are being hurled in headlines. Newspapers and magazines which make these insults are still continuing their print lives. If it was true that there was a dictatorship in Turkey, then how could such publications come out?” Erdoğan asked.
“Such insults and threats are not permitted in the West,” he added. “Had Obama put these issues [about press freedom] on the agenda during our meeting; then I would have told him [explained this] by presenting all of these examples,” he added.