Germany condemns Turkey's lack of press freedom

Germany’s Foreign Ministry on Monday denounced Turkey’s lack of press freedom, urging Ankara to reverse its refusal to issue press accreditation to three German journalists, reported German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

"We have very clearly stated our position to Turkey: We regard freedom of press as a precious asset," said Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Adebahr. "German, and European, journalists must be able to work freely in Turkey and we hope that the press accreditations will be issued shortly."

Last week, Thomas Seibert, who chiefly reports from Turkey for Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel, Jörg Brase, the Istanbul studio head for Germany’s public broadcaster ZDF, and German radio reporter journalist Halil Gülbeyaz, were all denied press cards, which foreign journalists in Turkey need to work in the country.

Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a member of parliament for Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told DW that he could not understand the refusal of accreditation.

"I neither comprehend, nor approve, of the decision," he said. "Such decisions undermine the image of our cosmopolitan country."

Several German journalists have run into similar troubles in Turkey, including Der Spiegel correspondent Hasnain Kazim, who was refused accreditation in 2016, and Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel, who spent a year in an Istanbul jail before being allowed to return to Germany in February 2018.

Turkish investigative journalist Pelin Ünker, who also works for DW, was sentenced in January to over 13 months in jail over her Panama Papers reporting. Dozens of Turkish journalists have been jailed in a government crackdown on its critics.

“Following the failed coup attempt in July 2016, about 200 media outlets in Turkey were shut down under the state of emergency decree that lasted until July 2018,” wrote DW. “Around 3,000 journalists have lost their jobs as a result of the media crackdown.”

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Turkey's refusal to renew the German journalists press cards was an unacceptable "de-facto sacking". The group's director, Christian Mihr, demanded that Turkey issue press cards for the reporters immediately.

"The fact that journalists from international media are apparently being denied accreditation is a brazen attempt to restrict independent reporting abroad," Mihr told DW. "Coming just one month before the local elections, which are crucial in Turkey, this can't just be a bureaucratic blunder."

RSF placed Turkey 157th out of 180 countries on its World Press Freedom Index in 2018, down two from the previous year, and called Turkey the “world’s biggest jailer of journalists” in the 2018 report.

“About 90 percent of what remains of the Turkish media landscape can be linked to (President Recep Tayyip) Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), either personally or financially,” said DW. “And the remaining 10 percent are being starved of financial support, for example by the threat of lost advertising revenue.”