Thursday 22 March 2018

'We deplore the situation facing our Turkish colleagues' - Journalist's arrest condemned

Protestors carry placards during a demonstration to support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel outside theTurkish Embassy in Berlin, Germany. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch
Protestors carry placards during a demonstration to support arrested German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel outside theTurkish Embassy in Berlin, Germany. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch Newsdesk Newsdesk

Two major newspaper representative groups have condemned the arrest in Turkey of a German newspaper correspondent.

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) have called for the immediate release of Deniz Yücel.

Mr Yücel, a dual national Turkish-German journalist for Die Welt, was arrested in Turkey on charges of spreading “propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation” and “inciting the public to violence”.

The journalist was initally detained on February 14 after reporting on the hacking of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak’s private emails. Mr Albayrak is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On Monday, an Istanbul judge filed for Mr Yücel to be remanded in custody and, later that evening, the court ordered him to be detained pending trial.

According to reports, the court has also accused the journalist of propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a designated terror group fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state, partly because of an interview he conducted two years ago with Cemil Bayık, one of the PKK’s founders.

Mr Yücel has regularly written about the Turkish government's treatment of ethnic Kurds.

According to WAN-IFRA and WEF the Turkish media has been victim of a crackdown on fundamental freedoms in recent years, in particular following a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

According to local reports over 150 journalists have been jailed as a result of the authorities’ actions, with many thousands more now unemployed as a result of the enforced closure of numerous media outlets.

In a statement WAN-IFRA said: “Under the pretext of protecting national security, it is clear that the Turkish authorities in fact aim to shut down critical debate in the country and further entrench the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Erdoğan.”

The statement continued: “We deplore the situation facing our Turkish colleagues, while this latest step of jailing a foreign correspondent only serves to further underline the desperate need for the Turkish government to stop its deliberate and targeted campaign against the press. WAN-IFRA calls for the immediate release of Deniz Yücel and all journalists imprisoned or facing trial in Turkey simply for carrying out their professional duties.”

The statement from WAN-IFRA comes on the back of a meeting with Antonio Guterres, the new Secretary General of the United Nations on February 23.

WAN-IFRA, RSF and CPJ urged the Secretary General to consider the creation of a Special Representative for the Protection of Journalists, part of whose role would be to act as an emergency response mechanism wherever, and whenever journalists may be threatened.

“At this time, there is a growing need for solidarity around the issues affecting the safety and protection of journalists, particularly within the context of the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

"The Plan itself calls for a more cohesive, multi-stakeholder approach to tacking and addressing the issues; this includes state actors, and the Turkish authorities are sending all the wrong signals that they do not take these efforts seriously. By continuing to jail and harass journalists, shut down media outlets and undermine press freedom, Turkey is in fact working against common efforts to better protect the profession of journalism.”

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