The Malta Independent 29 March 2017, Wednesday

Malta, EU critical of anything impinging on freedom of speech – Muscat says after Turkey PM meeting

Kevin Schembri Orland Friday, 17 February 2017, 14:20 Last update: about 2 months ago

Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said today that Malta and the EU are critical on anything that impinges on freedom of speech.

He was answering questions during a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, related to Foreign journalists being denied entrance into Turkey.

"We spoke about the situation in Turkey."  Dr Muscat said that Turkey recently underwent an attempted coup that failed.  "We were clear from day one on our support for a democratically elected government, and that is the European position.  The EU's position, and Malta's, is critical about anything that does impinge on freedom of speech and we have made our position clear."

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The Maltese Prime Minister did not condemn the situation there however, and said that just because two countries might disagree on some issues does not mean they should not work together on other issues. "Its about engaging more rather than issuing condemnations." 

"The EU and Malta's position is totally in favour of freedom of speech and non-punitive measures. We all know that freedom of speech and journalism are not the best bedfellows for politicians in government, but we believe the best way to engage is to continue strengthening freedom of speech."

For his part, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım argued that over the past five years they have hosted three million refugees, providing them with food and education. "What about the others?" He said referring to other countries. "They just appreciate our efforts and do not do anything else. Turkey has always been a country that helps those in need". He mentioned Turkey's fight against Daesh. He also brought up the recent coup attempt.

He stressed that Turkey is fighting terrorists, and said they are fighting against those who pretend to be journalists, but provide logistical support to terrorists. "We need to distinguish between real journalists and these people. These are facts about Turkey that are being misrepresented, as though Turkey is attacking those rights."

"Freedom of speech and the press are universal rights and these rights have been implemented to fullest extent in turkey through rule of year." He said that a distinction needs to be made between journalists and those who abuse it for terrorism. "We are fighting against those who claim to be journalists to provide logistical support to terrorists or use press cards to help terrorists.  We need to distinguish between real journalists and those persons. Facts being misrepresentations as though Turkey attacking those rights.

If freedom of the press and the rule of law are so important to the European Union "then let us open up discussions on chapter 23 and 24 on Justice and the freedom of the press, so that we can respond to anything the European Union has to say."

Malta and Turkey have pledged to strengthen cooperation in various fields, primarily in maritime affairs and investment. Both Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım referred to negotiations on a customs union which still need to take place between Turkey and the EU, with Prime Minister Muscat saying that Malta is committed to ensuring that the negotiations will take place expeditiously. The Turkish Prime Minister said that the talks also focused on closer cooperation in maritime affairs in light of the fact that Malta has the third largest registered maritime fleet in the world. The current situation in Turkey, the Cypriot talks, the refugee problem, Syria, Libya, and the Mediterranean were also touched upon during the press conference.

It was also announced that Malta will soon open an embassy in Turkey.

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