Foreign journalists barred from Turkey-EU press conference in Istanbul

At least six foreign journalists were barred from taking part in a press conference held in Istanbul on Thursday announcing a 275 million euro investment from the European Union in Turkish rail projects, the Independent newspaper reported.

Turkish Finance and Treasury Minister Berat Albayrak, who took part in the press conference, said the journalists had been excluded because their accreditation documents had expired.

“Everywhere in the world … members of the press have their accreditation periodically renewed,” Turkish news site Diken quoted Albayrak as saying. “Those who have had theirs renewed are here and can ask questions freely. Some haven’t had theirs renewed. But maybe they will next year, or maybe not.”

Foreign journalists have faced problems receiving accreditation in this year Turkey, Diken reported, adding that some had not received their press cards in time for today’s event despite submitting the documentation on time.

Journalists not admitted to the press conference included reporters from German outlets Süddeutsche Zeitung, ZDF, Tagesspiegel and ARD Radio, Diken said.

EU Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen expressed his regret that journalists had been barred and said the EU “was working with Turkish authorities to make sure ‘freedom of the press is respected,’” the Independent reported.

The press conference on Thursday marked one of the largest ever foreign investments in Turkey to build a 1-billion-euro state-of-the-art rail line connecting Istanbul to the EU border.

However, political relations with the EU have been under serious strain for years, particularly in the aftermath of a coup attempt in July 2016.

Press freedom in Turkey has been a source of serious concern and criticism from the EU, which has cited repressive measures after the coup attempt by the country’s government as a justification for the stall in accession negotiations. On February 20, the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee voted in favour of suspending the accession negotiations.