German politicians to play Turkish journalists in football friendly

Photo: Deutsche Welle

A football team made up of politicians from Germany’s federal assembly, the Bundestag, has announced it will play a friendly with Turkish journalists to promote press freedom, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) reported on Monday.

FC Bundestag’s captain, Markus Weinberg of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party, has discussed the team’s desire to raise awareness of the 262 journalists he said are currently jailed around the world.

Recalling that Turkey, the world’s most prolific jailer of journalists, was responsible for a large portion of that list, Weinberg said the Turkish journalists facing the Germans on the field on Tuesday night will have the opportunity to make statements after the match.

“The free press is one of the foundations of a free and democratic society,” Weinberg said, adding that wherever journalists were prevented from independently reporting the news, other human rights abuses were bound to follow.

In Turkey’s case, the long-running repression of critical media voices accelerated after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, at which point a state of emergency was imposed, leading to massive purges and thousands of arrests.

An estimated 90 percent of Turkish media outlets now follow a pro-government editorial line, and over 200 media outlets have been shut down since the coup attempt.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other officials raised their concerns over Turkey’s recent human rights and rule of law record with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his visit to Berlin at the end of September.

The Bundestag’s football team takes an active role in promoting causes close to assembly’s representatives, playing around 20 matches a year to publicize them. Bundestag FC also sometimes assembles to play matches for diplomatic purposes. It played a team of Russian politicians in June to strengthen ties between the countries.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 7, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with Ahval)

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