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Freedom of the press? Turkey slams Swiss tabloid

Istanbul’s Taksim Square, backdropped by a poster of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

Istanbul’s Taksim Square, backdropped by a poster of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan

(Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Swiss daily newspaper Blick has waded into controversy with its provocative Turkish-language headline urging Turks in Switzerland to “vote against the Erdogan dictatorship”.

President Tayyip Erdogan appeared on Turkish television on Monday evening holding up a copy of the newspaper. He has demanded compensation from Blickexternal link, citing a lack of respect.

TV

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The cover of Blick appears at about 00:30.

In its editorial on Monday, Blick told Turkish readers in Switzerland, “If you want to introduce dictatorial conditions in your homeland, feel free. But you should then live under these conditions. For us Swiss, it’s unacceptable for someone here to benefit from freedom and rule of law but at the same time want to abolish these at home.”

Blick editor-in-chief Christian Dorer has rejected Erdogan’s call for compensation: “Here in Switzerland, unlike in Turkey, we have freedom of expression”.

When asked for his reaction by Swiss public radio, RTSexternal link, Dorer seemed proud that his newspaper had made the evening news in Turkey.

“We were very surprised. We didn’t expect that. But we are happy that the president reads Blick. That’s obvious. He criticises us and tries to tell his country that everyone is against him, including Switzerland.”

In Turkey, pro-government media described Blick’s stance as ‘scandalous’ and called it a ‘racist and far right’ paper – denouncing what it called an ‘anti-Turkish, Islamophobic and racist campaign’ in Switzerland.

Blick’s article, addressed to the 93,000 Turks living in Switzerland who have the right to vote in Turkey, has received a mixed welcome among Turkish expats. The Federation of Turkish Associations in French-speaking Switzerland told RTS that this type of action was counter-productive.

David Gün, a federation committee member, said Blick’s article was ‘rather light’ and had an air of populism about it as there was no argument explaining why people should vote ‘No’. On April 16, there will be a referendum on constitutional changes in Turkey.

Eye on spies

In a follow-up to Monday’s editorial warning that “Switzerland must also fear the long arm of Erdogan”, the Tages-Anzeigerexternal link newspaper reported on Tuesday that the University of Zurich had decided to work harder to thwart spies – for example, by engaging campus or external security at events related to politically sensitive topics.

University of Zurich President Michael Hengartner told the Tages-Anzeiger that the school would “not tolerate” anybody filming people without their permission, for example at a recent event honouring the editor-in-chief of Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet – where people noticed two men using their smartphones to take sly photos of guests. The same happened at a public lecture on the Armenian genocide.

The University of Basel told the newspaper that it had had similar experiences, and these since the 1980s.

“At public events I always assume that there’s some sort of an informant in the audience,” University of Basel sociologist Bilgin Ayata told the Tages-Anzeiger. She’s been researching the Armenian genocide and Kurdish conflict for years.

The newspaper asked other universities in German-speaking Switzerland about the issue, but they said they were unaware of any Turkish informants spying on campus.

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