ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish government officials have defended Turkey's much-criticized press freedom record but have agreed to improve the situation for journalists, an international media freedom watchdog said Friday.
The chairman of the Committee to Protect Journalists, Sandy Rowe, and counterparts from the International Press Institute met with Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, on Thursday.
In a statement released Friday, the delegation said Turkish officials denied that journalists were put under pressure and accused media outlets of distorting coverage. They nevertheless agree to address concerns raised, including reforming press laws and making files of jailed journalists available for independent review.
"We welcome the commitments they made, and we believe officials recognize the depth of the international concern," Rowe said.
The CPJ said that during a 90-minute meeting, Erdogan said "media should never have been given the liberty to insult."
The Turkish president also told the delegation that he was "increasingly against the Internet every day," arguing that criminal and terrorist organizations, including the Islamic State militant group are using the Internet to recruit followers.
CPJ has previously cited Turkey as the world's worst offender for imprisoning journalists. Turkey is also criticized for intimidating journalists who publish critical material.
The watchdog said at least seven journalists are still being held in prison, while others have been conditionally released but could still face prison.
The CPJ said that during a meeting with Davutoglu, the delegation raised concerns that Turkish leaders' public criticism of journalists, including New York Times reporter Ceylan Yeginsu and The Economist correspondent Amberin Zaman, had triggered a wave of social media threats against them.
Davutoglu responded that his office would provide protection to journalists who turn to him.
"Any threat to Amberin Zaman is a threat to me," the CPJ quoted Davutoglu as telling the delegation.