EU Commission: Arrest of journalists in Turkey has grave impact on freedom of expression

As criticism mounts in Germany over the Monday arrest of Die Welt’s Turkey correspondent Deniz Yücel on charges of disseminating the propaganda of a terrorist organization and inciting people to hatred and enmity, the European Commission has also voiced its solidarity with the journalist, saying it is seriously concerned about the arrest of a large number of journalists in Turkey, which has had “a grave impact on freedom of expression.”

Speaking to Turkish Minute via email, a spokesperson of the EU Commission expressed solidarity with Yücel, who was arrested as part of an investigation for reporting on the leaked emails of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

“The EU has repeatedly stressed that Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to respect the highest democratic standards and practices, including in the area of freedom of expression and media,” the spokesperson said.

Underlining that a free, diverse and independent media are essential in any democratic society, the spokesperson added, “The EU will continue to address these key concerns and challenges with Turkey.”

Meanwhile nationwide protests took place in Germany on Tuesday as demonstrators took to the streets in solidarity with Yücel.

People holding banners reading #FreeDeniz were on the streets of Berlin, while a long convoy of cars, usually seen after big wins by the German national team, made its way through Berlin in rush hour traffic.

Apart from Berlin, protests also took place in Bielefeld, Bremen, Frankfurt, Hanover, Hamburg, Cologne, Leipzig and Munich as well as in Vienna and Graz in Austria and Zurich in Switzerland on Tuesday afternoon.

German-Turkish politicians from the Green Party Cem Özdemir and Özcan Mutlu joined the protesters in front of the Turkish Embassy in Berlin.

Criticizing German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel for the soft policy towards Erdoğan, Özdemir said: “It’s important to make clear that the times of cuddling with Mr. Erdoğan are finally over because he takes that as a sign to stay his course. We have to stop throwing cotton balls at him and instead be very clear.”

Germany summons Turkish ambassador over Yücel’s arrest

Meanwhile, German Foreign Minister Gabriel summoned Turkish Ambassador Ali Kemal Aydın on Tuesday over Yücel’s arrest and the German government’s concern about freedom of the press and freedom of opinion in Turkey.

According to Deutsche Welle, Gabriel told Aydın that the jailing of Yücel had placed a massive strain on bilateral relations and that they face one of the greatest tests of the present day.
Upon Yücel’s arrest on Monday, Merkel called the court decision “disproportionate.”

“The German government expects that the Turkish judiciary, in its treatment of the Yücel case, takes account of the high value of freedom of the press for every democratic society. We will continue to insist on a fair and legal treatment of Deniz Yücel and hope that he will soon regain his freedom,” she said, criticizing move as “bitter and disappointing.”

Media organizations, journalists, artists show support for Yücel

Media organizations in Germany, fellow journalists and artists also reacted against Turkey’s decision to arrest Yücel as PEN Germany called for his immediate release, and several German newspapers had full-coverage front pages for Yücel on Tuesday.

German comedian Jan Böhmermann, known for his satirical take on Erdoğan that led to a series of court proceedings, posted several tweets featuring support for Yücel.

Thousands of social media users in Germany have shown solidarity with Yücel, making the hashtags #FreeDeniz, #Korso4Deniz and #Yücel among the top trending tweets. ( Feb. 28, 2017

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