Turkey fights EU criticism over reporter arrests, newsroom raids


A diplomatic spat between Ankara and the European Union expanded on Monday, after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan dismissed European criticism over a wave of arrests of media figures this weekend, which saw more than two dozen journalists around the country detained. Among the news outlets affected was Zaman, Turkey’s widest-circulating newspaper, whose editor-in-chief was one of the dozens arrested in the sweep. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini and Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn released a joint statement calling the mass arrests “incompatible with the freedom of media, which is a core principle of democracy,” to which Erdogan responded that “[the] EU should mind its own business.” Turkish authorities accused the arrested reporters, which included top journalists, media executives, and television scriptwriters, of backing U.S.-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, whose supporters have been locked in open political warfare with Erdogan’s Justice and Development (AKP) Party since a December 2013 graft probe by judicial and police officials linked to the cleric targeted top figures in the Islamist party, including Erdogan and members of his family. In the past year, pushback against Gulenists has involved, among other things, the purge of literally thousands of judges, police officers, and others deemed by the AKP to be opponents. Freedom House, an NGO that monitors press and other freedoms around the world, in 2014 assigned Turkey a “not free” rating, slamming Ankara for imprisoning more journalists than any other country in the world for the second year in a row. The Freedom House report noted that Turkish government officials “used the financial and other leverage it holds over media owners to influence press coverage of politically sensitive issues.”


Prof. Zvi Bentwich has received a Grand Challenges in Global Health grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for his project in Ethiopia to wipe out parasitic worm infections. Bentwich, 78, is a longtime member of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s department of microbiology, immunology and genetics, and heads the university’s Center for Emerging Diseases, Tropical Diseases and AIDS. He has labored for years to eradicate common parasitic infestations that contribute to Africa’s AIDS and tuberculosis epidemics, after his groundbreaking research uncovered a strong link between intestinal worms and immune system deficiencies in the 1990s. The two cornerstones of Bentwich’s new program are a health-education campaign run by specially trained local students, and the provision of clean water and sanitation facilities. The test region in Ethiopia encompasses 30 schools serving an area with a population of 200,000. Families in the test region will be educated by the students about the causes and symptoms of the parasite-caused diseases, and how to avoid contracting them. They will also be treated with anti-parasitic drugs. At the same time, the schools will receive fresh drinking water and latrines. The effect of the two-pronged program on infection rates will be evaluated after 18 months. (via Israel21c)

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