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Speeches and Public Events

Ambassador Ricciardone: “We Support Press Freedom Full Stop”

April 13, 2011
Ambassador Ricciardone

Ambassador Ricciardone

At a press breakfast on April 13, Ambassador Ricciardone gave strong support to the role of media freedom in a democracy, telling Turkish journalists “America supports freedom of the press, full stop” and that “as long as you journalists continue with energy and courage, we are optimistic for the future.” Regarding Turkey’s arrested journalists, Ambassador said “we are concerned,” noted the OSCE and US official comments regarding the detainments and said “Sometimes from outside, you see things in another party, in a friend, or in a country that seem contradictory. So, as foreigners, we see this as [just like in the Turkish idiom“ bu ne perhiz bu ne lahana tursusu”] it’s not a diet or a cabbage pickle. We ask the same questions that you all do – what is this all about?” Speaking in Turkish on the Human Rights Report, Ricciardone quoted Secretary Clinton, noting that “the struggle for human rights begins by telling the truth over and over again. The second one is that the United States will stand with those who seek to advance the causes of democracy and human rights wherever they may live.” Regarding Turkey’s elections: Ricciardone saluted the election process, especially because there are more younger and more female candidates this year, and underlined several times that “we are not supporting any one party” and that “Turkey will come out of the elections with more strength.” The ambassador said he remained “optimistic” about the future because “when we look at [Turkey’s history], there are ups and downs but always on an increasing upwards trend.”

Freedom of the Press (Excerpt from the transcript)

Question: Your initial remarks to the media after your arrival was about freedom of expression [and] media freedom in Turkey. You said you cannot understand the situation. But later, this was considered as “back track,” although the State Dept stood behind you, behind your statements. Do you really consider it as a back track or are you really concerned about the latest detentions and also seizure of an unpublished book?

Ambassador Ricciardone:  Of course, we’re concerned.  Of course, we’ve not back tracked. You know, when you are the American Ambassador in a country, people look at, hang on your every word, parse it and see it as a little shift this way, as a little shift that way.  There’s no shifting, no back tracking when it comes to upholding our principles and US law, and international law. We support freedom of expression and that means media freedom, full stop. No qualifications. It is the job of foreigners, foreign diplomats in any country to try to understand what is going on.

So, we speak with opinion leaders like you. People in the media, people in politics, people in academia, people in business, educated people, influential people, religious leaders, cultural leaders, entertainers. We speak to everybody because we want to understand the country. We are friends, friends try to understand each other. When there are differences, we try to reconcile them. Sometimes from outside, you see things in another party, in a friend, or in a country that seem contradictory. And we ask friends.  I learned a wonderful expression this past week, “Bu ne perhiz, bu ne lahana turşusu.” I love that: “it’s neither a diet, nor a cabbage pickle.” It’s so hard to translate into English. So as foreigners, we see this is neither diet nor a cabbage pickle. And we say: what is this all about? In that context, we ask the same questions you do: what is this all about?