Turkish journalist does not attend Erdoğan-Merkel press conference to prevent a crisis

Turkish dissident journalist Can Dündar announced on Friday that he would not attend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s new conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in Berlin order to avoid being used as an excuse for a diplomatic crisis between two countries, news site T24 reported.

Erdoğan was expected to cancel the news conference, after hearing  the news that federal press bureau accredited Can Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of the leftist Cumhuriyet newspaper.

Dündar currently lives in Germany’s capital and faces an arrest warrant in absentia in Turkey.

Dündar was preparing to ask Erdoğan why he brands some 175 journalists currently incarcerated in Turkish jails as terrorists rather than journalists.

“Erdoğan was to cancel the event by using me as an excuse. I did not want to be a part of it,” Dündar said on Friday.

“When I was in jail, one journalist asked the prime minister a question about journalists in prison. This journalist was Deniz Yücel,” Dündar said. 

Yücel, a dual Germany -Turkish national, was later detained in Turkey on allegations of espionage and terrorism and stayed 11 months in prison. Yücel’s detention at the time triggered a political crisis between Turkey and Germany and Yücel’s release was allegedly achieved through an arms deal agreement between two countries. 

“It is not easy to silence journalists here. And I only wanted to ask a question. I wanted him to say to my face the answer he gave to a question when I was in jail,” Dündar said. “I did not think that he would be afraid from one question. Erdoğan’s behaviour shows his answer to this question. Erdoğan does not want to be asked questions. He does not want to hear about press freedom,” Dündar said. 

Dündar said it was as if he would have ruined the improvement in German-Turkish relations by attending the event. He said he did not want to become the news by attending the press conference, as that would be the worst thing for a journalist. 

A German journalist asked Erdoğan a question about Dündar during his press conference with Merkel. Erdoğan called Dündar an “agent’ and a “fugitive” and said that Dündar should have been in jail for exposing state secrets. 

Dündar was found guilty of treason by an Istanbul court on May 6, 2016 for leaking secret government information about clandestine arms shipments to Syria.