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Mar 10 2019

Two German journalists denied accreditation leave Turkey

Two German journalists have left Turkey after Ankara refused to renew their press credentials, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported on Sunday.

Reporter for the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel daily Thomas Seibert and correspondent for public broadcaster ZDF Jörg Brase flew to Germany on Sunday after authorities in Ankara last week informed them that their application for a new press card had not been approved, DW said.

The pair’s departure from Turkey follows a move by Germany's Foreign Ministry on Saturday to revise its travel advice for citizens planning to travel to Turkey, citing  journalists who recently denied accreditation in the country without a given justification, and people who had taken part in some meetings and at anyone making social media comments critical of Ankara.

No reason has been given by Turkish officials for the refusal to renew Seibert and Brase’s press cards, DW said, noting that the incident has again weighed heavily on Ankara-Berlin relations.

Both reporters criticised the actions of Ankara at a press conference in the ZDF studio in Istanbul prior to their departure.

"It's an attempt to intimidate the foreign media and put pressure on them," Brase, who had been working in Turkey since January 2018, said, adding that he was considering moving to Tehran since the Iranian government had given him the necessary paperwork to live there.

The ZDF correspondent also noted that the public broadcaster is planning on taking legal action against the decision and he and Seibert wish to continue reporting on Turkey, if necessary from abroad.

Ankara-Berlin relations were strained following Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt. The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement, a religious group, of orchestrating the coup attempt and has launched a massive crackdown against its devotees in Turkey and abroad.

Many members of the Gülen movement, which Turkey labels as a terrorist organisation, have fled to Germany in the aftermath of the coup attempt. Erdoğan blames Germany for not acting sensitively over the practices of organisations which Turkey links to terrorism.

Ankara’s crackdown against the opposition following the failed putsch also extended to nationals of foreign countries. Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel’s detention in Turkey for almost 11 months on terror charges was one of the main topics that strained the relations between two countries in 2018. Yücel was released in February of 2018.  

German journalist Mesale Tolu was also released serving after eight months in prison in 2018 on charges of spreading propaganda for terrorist organisations. 

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Saturday criticised the Turkish authorities' decision not to issue new press credentials to a number of German correspondents, saying it was unacceptable they were prevented from working freely in Turkey.