Turkey faced heavy European criticism of its human rights record Thursday that could further strain relations at a time when the EU needs Ankara’s help in stemming record numbers of refugees and migrants.

 

The European Parliament approved its annual progress report on Turkey, a candidate for European Union membership, that lambasts the country’s record on human rights and media freedoms during 2015. Ankara swiftly rejected the report.

 

“(Lawmakers) urge Turkey to act against intimidation of journalists in all its forms, condemn its violent and illegal take-over of several newspapers … and highlight its serious backsliding on freedom of speech,” the parliament said.

 

Turkish authorities have seized or shut down several newspapers and taken broadcasters off the air in recent months, while a German TV comedian is facing a Turkish legal complaint for insulting President Tayyip Erdogan.

 

Nevertheless, international rights groups have accused Brussels of turning a blind eye to such developments because it needs Erdogan’s cooperation in curbing the flow of migrants and refugees passing from the Middle East via Turkey into the EU.

 

 

 

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