Turkey’s journalists in exile continue to face threats in Germany - CPJ

Turkey’s dissident journalists, who were forced to leave the country due to Ankara’s ongoing crackdown on critical media, continue to face threats in their new home of Berlin, Germany.

Can Dündar, Hayko Bağdat and Zübeyde Sarı are three such figures, whose lives in exile, although much safer, continue to pose dangers due to the large pro-government Turkish population in the German capital, wrote freelance journalist Attila Mong for the New York-based NGO Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).

Germany is home to some 3 million Turks, roughly of which 250,000 live in Berlin.

"One big difference is how the blue light and sounds of the police cars in the street during the night do not worry me any longer," Hayko Bağdat, a columnist for the now-banned Taraf daily told CPJ. 

Taraf is one of some 180 critical news outlets shut down following the July 15, 2016 coup attempt to overthrow the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Thousands of journalists lost their jobs overnight while the digital archives of some news outlets were destroyed. Critical journalists and others who worked for media associated with Fethullah Gülen, the Pennsylvania-based preacher Ankara blames for the coup, and for pro-Kurdish media, were taken into custody.

Zübeyde Sari, who worked as a reporter at IMC TV and earlier with BBC Turkish, says it’s a relief  not to have to deal with authorities because of her reporting. She only crosses paths with them when doing her paperwork concerning her stay in Germany.

Dündar, the former editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper, has become the face of Turkish journalists in exile. Dündar was sentenced to prison on charges of revealing state secrets for a report alleging that Turkey had tried to ship arms to Islamists in Syria.

He explains that the number of daily threats he receives on social media has not changed since he moved to Germany. 

"I get hundreds of harassing social media messages daily, some of them clear threats and sometimes direct death threats too," Bağdat, whose Twitter has more than one million followers, told CPJ.

Dündar says is regularly insulted in the street from ordinary people, who sometimes take photos and videos of him walking in the street and share the footage online.

He is increasingly considering the idea of moving to London, where the Turkish community is more diverse and his exposure to such harassment will decrease.

Dündar and Bağdat live under a kind of police protection, the article said, due to various risks, ‘’from the Turkish intelligence agency's widely reported practice of kidnapping dissidents (or trying to) and bringing them home to possible physical attacks and even death threats.’’

They may be free to exercise their journalism, however, the tight security makes it difficult to report, the article said. 

"People might think that I am Brad Pitt or some kind of VIP,’’ Bağdat said. "I have sometimes so many policemen accompanying me, especially when I go to any public event."