Deniz Yücel, a German-Turkish journalist who remained in pre-trial detention in Turkey for about one year, criticized the German president for inviting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for an official visit to the country in late September as he accepted a media award on Tuesday, the Turkish edition of Deutsche Welle reported.
The journalist was given the M100 Media Award at a ceremony in Potsdam on Tuesday night.
Delivering a speech at the ceremony, Yücel criticized German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier for inviting Erdoğan for an official visit despite widespread human rights and press freedom violations in Turkey.
The journalist accused the German government of “betraying those in Turkey who want a free, democratic and secular society.”
Erdoğan will pay an official visit to Berlin Sept. 27-29.
Yücel was working as a Die Welt correspondent in Turkey when he was taken into custody by police in İstanbul on Feb. 14, 2017. A warrant for his arrest was issued a short time later. By March, the 44-year-old journalist was transferred to İstanbul’s maximum-security Silivri Prison and court complex. Many press and rights advocates considered him a hostage of Turkey’s government, and his arrest strained relations between Ankara and Berlin.
The journalist was released pending trial on Feb. 16, 2018. He quickly left Turkey and returned to Germany.
Yücel’s trial is still continuing in Turkey, with the next hearing set for Dec. 20. He faces a jail sentence of up to 18 years on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda and fomenting hatred and enmity among the public.
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 236 journalists and media workers were in jail as of Sept. 13, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 168 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 147 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 the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)