UPDATE 1-Turkey’s Erdogan needs thicker skin, EU’s Tusk says – Reuters

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* EU has struck deal with Turkey over migrants

* Tusk says press freedom topic with Turkish leaders

* “Won’t turn other cheek to those who slap us” – Erdogan

(Adds comment from Erdogan speech on Sunday)

By Ercan Gurses and Alastair Macdonald

GAZIANTEP, Turkey/BRUSSELS, April 24 Turkey’s
president needs a thicker skin against criticism, a senior EU
official suggested as European leaders try to shore up support
at home for their deal with Ankara to hold back migrants.

Former Polish prime minister Donald Tusk, who chairs EU
summits, was visiting a refugee camp at Gaziantep near the
Syrian border on Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and was asked about Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan’s legal
moves against critical media, including a German comedian.

Tusk said press freedom was a “permanent topic” of his talks
with Turkish leaders which have produced the deal under which
Turkey is taking back all refugees and migrants who reach Greek
islands in return for concessions from the European Union.

Recalling his own jailing in the 1980s for opposing Poland’s
communist government, Tusk recalled that Erdogan, too, had been
imprisoned in 1999 for criticising Turkey’s then rulers.

“Thirty years ago, I was imprisoned for being critical
of the regime,” Tusk said late on Saturday. “My good
friend, President Erdogan, 15 years later also had a
similar experience for expressing his views.”

Criticism of Turkey in Europe poses an obstacle to the deal
struck by European Union leaders with Ankara last month because
approval of the EU’s side of the bargain, notably waiving visas
for Turkish travellers by June, requires support in the European

Many EU lawmakers criticise Erdogan’s crackdown on critics,
including a lawsuit against a comedian in Germany.

Tusk said: “As a politician, I have learned and accepted to
have a thick skin and I have no expectation that the press will
treat me with special care; quite the opposite.

“And the line between criticism, insult and defamation is
very thin and relative. The moment politicians begin to decide
which is which can mean the end of the freedom of expression, in
Europe, in Turkey, in Africa, in Russia, everywhere.”

Prosecutors have opened more than 1,800 cases against people
for insulting Erdogan since he became president in 2014, the
justice minister said last month. Those targeted include
journalists, cartoonists and even children.

“This struggle will not end until we shut the last mouth up
that expresses hatred to our country and people’s history,
values and culture,” Erdogan said in a speech in the southern
city of Adana on Sunday.

“We won’t turn the other cheek to those who slap us.”

While focused on the problems in Turkey, Tusk has also
criticised Russian President Vladimir Putin as well as his
right-wing successors in Poland, whose moves to curb the
independence of the public broadcaster have prompted inquiries
from the European Union and European rights bodies.

(Additional reporting by Akin Aytekin; Writing by Alastair
Macdonald; Editing by David Dolan and Alison Williams)

UPDATE 1-Turkey’s Erdogan needs thicker skin, EU’s Tusk says – Reuters