2 German journalists leave Turkey after press credentials not renewed

Thomas Seibert (L), reporter for Tagesspiegel and Jörg Brase, correspondent for ZDF left Turkey on March 10, 2019 after their accreditations were not renewed.

Thomas Seibert, a reporter for the Berlin-based Tagesspiegel daily, and Jörg Brase, a correspondent for German public broadcaster ZDF, flew to Germany on Sunday after their accreditation to work as journalists in Turkey was not renewed, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.

They were reportedly told by the authorities in Ankara about a week ago that their applications for new press cards had not been approved.

“I have not been given any reason why my application to extend my press credentials was denied,” Brase told DW. 

Seibert said the decision to force them out of the country may not even have been because of anything they reported.

“I don’t think it’s about anything I have written,” Seibert told DW. “I think it’s a message to the Western press. They need a scapegoat or two or three, and I was one of the unlucky ones.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Saturday tweeted that it was “unacceptable” that German correspondents could not do their jobs freely in Turkey. In an interview with Tagesspiegel, he said denying the journalists their right to do their job was “incompatible with our understanding of press freedom.”

At a press conference in the ZDF studio in Istanbul prior to their departure, the two reporters criticized the actions of the Turkish government.

After seeing that they can control the domestic media, the authorities appear to be trying to intimidate foreign media as well, according to Brase.

“There is hardly any critical [domestic] reporting, at least not in state media,” Brase said. “Now they are trying it with the international media, but I can’t imagine the plan will work.”

ZDF is reportedly planning on taking legal action against the decision.

Halil Gülbeyaz, a freelance journalist accredited with Northern German Broadcasting (NDR) for the last 12 years, also announced on March 3 that his application for a press card extension had been rejected, Bianet reported. Gülbeyaz currently lives in Germany.

Turkey, the most notorious country in the world in terms of jailing journalists, has also gone after foreign reporters in an ever-escalating crackdown on freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

A recent report by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) titled “The Clampdown on Foreign Journalists in Turkey” explains in detail how reporters from other countries face serious obstacles in Turkey that at times suggest a deliberate, systematic and calibrated policy by the government is, in fact, being implemented.

SCF has also compiled 36 cases in which foreign journalists in Turkey have faced detention, jailing, denial of residence permit extensions, cancelation of accreditation, deportation, prohibition on entering Turkey, discrediting and finger-pointing in a list in a searchable database format as of December 26, 2018.

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 also the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 211 journalists and media workers were in jail as of March 11, 2019, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 134 were under arrest pending trial while only 77 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 167 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

The government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with DW)

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!