US' Ricciardone retreats on Turkish press remarks, but is backed by state dept
New US ambassador to Ankara Francis Ricciardone yesterday backtracked from comments on press freedom following criticism from Turkish officials, who had rebuffed him by saying that the media is freer in Turkey than in the United States. Ricciardone made his initial remarks when asked by reporters about his opinion on a recent raid on Oda TV, an anti-government online news portal, but added yesterday that he didn't mean to comment on a particular case. "When there are things that seem odd and when things come up that are hard to understand, we hope Turks will help us understand," he said, speaking at a meeting organized at the Sabanci Business Center in Istanbul by the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK) and the Turkish-American Business Council. On a visit to Nepal, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told reporters that it's not right for an ambassador to pass judgment on an ongoing criminal investigation. According to Davutoglu, Ricciardone said that he had no intention of interfering in Turkey's domestic affairs and that he as yet lacks sufficient experience on such matters. Asked to comment on Ricciardone's initial statement, Interior Minister Besir Atalay told reporters yesterday, "With regard to press freedom, it's much better in Turkey than in the United States." On Wednesday, the US State Department gave Ricciardone its support. "We stand by the ambassador's statement," US State Department Philip J. Crowley told reporters in Washington. "We do have broad concerns about trends involving intimidation of journalists in Turkey, and we have raised that directly with the Turkish government and we'll continue to do so."