Merkel holds Istanbul meeting with journalists, NGOs on freedoms

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday met with representatives from non-governmental organisations as part of her visit to Istanbul, Deutsche Welle reported.

Merkel first attended the opening ceremony of the Turkish-German university in Istanbul and met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The German chancellor’s closed-door meeting with NGOs focused on freedom of expression, press freedom and the rule of law in Turkey.

Media and Law Studies Association Co-director Veysel Ok told DW Turkish that in the meeting they also discussed the judicial reform package the Turkish government is planning to introduce.

Merkel was also informed on the situation of German journalists who were unable to obtain press cards, and the German citizens in detention in Turkey, Ok said.

Erol Önderoğlu, Turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said all representatives in the meeting underlined that the rule of law had lost base in Turkey, and that the judicial reform would need to absolutely ensure the judiciary’s independence.

Cases against journalists are multifaceted, with legal bases ranging from Turkey’s anti-terror laws to insulting the president, Önderoğlu told Merkel.

The annulation of press cards for opposition daily Evrensel “is a matter that clearly demonstrates what kind of outcomes political polarisation in Turkey has on the side of the state,” Önderoğlu said.

“Delays or outright refusals of renewal for press cards have become tools for government circles to exclude all media organs that don’t fit with their model,” he added.

Turkey has recently had a tendency to get closer with Russia in terms of strategy, which has complicated its relationships, Önderoğlu relayed Chancellor Merkel as saying in the meeting.

Before Merkel arrived in Istanbul, Amnesty International called on the chancellor to take concrete action for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been in prison for over two years on charges related to Gezi Park, the huge anti-government protests of 2013.