The International Press Institute (IPI) yesterday joined nearly 20 international freedom of expression and human rights groups in condemning Turkey for withdrawing the accreditation of two German journalists. The groups had called upon European institutions to urge Turkey to rescind the decision and restore the media credentials of ZDF Istanbul bureau chief Jörg Brase and Thomas Seibert of Tagesspiegel.

Following the call by international groups, Turkey yesterday renewed Brase’s accreditation, while Seibert’s status remains unclear as his accreditation has not been approved. The government had rejected the accreditation applications of the two journalists on March 10 after their 10-day window to leave the country had passed.

IPI and other partner organizations said Turkey’s decision to cancel the two journalists’ accreditation was part of an effort to silence independent media and critical journalists.

While IPI welcomes the renewal of Brase’s accreditation, these developments raise further concerns about the pattern of intimidation not only toward local journalists but also toward foreign correspondents who report critically from Turkey for an international audience.

On February 14, 2017, Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for the German newspaper Welt, was arrested on the charges of “inciting the public to racial hatred and enmity” and “spreading the propaganda of a terrorist organization”. Yücel was held in pretrial detention for a year without an indictment. On the day of his release, prosecutors submitted a three-page-long indictment requesting an 18-year prison sentence. In September 2018, a Turkish court rejected a request from Yücel’s lawyer to compensate him for his unlawful detention. The request by lawyer Veysel Ok underlined numerous failures in the rule of law in Yücel’s case.

In 2018, Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who has written for leftist publications such as  re:volt and Jacobin, was arrested when anti-terror police raided his home. After spending over three months in pre-trial detention, Zirngast was released with a travel ban on December 24, 2018, and is now awaiting the first hearing of his trial in April in the Turkish capital Ankara. The indictment submitted on the day of his release cited his articles criticizing Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s policies on the Turkish-Kurdish issues. In a recent interview with IPI, he stressed that the charges are not supported by any credible evidence and said: “It is hard to defend yourself against something that does not exist.”

Read the full joint statement below.

12 March 2019

Two German journalists were compelled to leave Turkey on Sunday, 10 March 2019, after their press accreditations were not renewed for 2019 without any explanation. Jörg Brase, a journalist working for Germany’s ZDF public broadcaster, and Thomas Seibert, reporter at the Tagesspiegel newspaper, were long-term correspondents in the country. The Turkish embassy in Germany apparently tried in vain to make a deal to have the correspondents replaced, Tagesspiegel’s editor-in-chief reports. A third journalist, Halil Gülbeyaz, with NDR TV also had his accreditation refused and is not allowed to return to Turkey.

Besides the recent and on-going intimidation, detention, and prosecution of local journalists, pressure against foreign media outlets has been growing in Turkey. These incidents are not isolated cases but show a systematic approach to silence and control foreign independent media coverage in the country. Several international journalists have faced intimidation or have been forced to leave the country over the past year after they fell out of favour with Turkey’s government. Others are still waiting for the renewal of their accreditations and might have to leave the country as well. Press cards are necessary official documents for foreign journalists to receive working and residence permit.

The latest incident yet again marks a strong and arbitrary affront against international press freedom and independent media outlets. It is especially worrying in the run-up to the local elections at the end of March.

The undersigned organizations call on the EU institutions for a meaningful response. Moreover, we urge Turkey’s authorities to revoke the decisions, to stop the expulsion of international journalists, to renew press cards to foreign media outlets, and to respect their independence.

Signed by

Article 19
Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRNI)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Danish PEN
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
German PEN
Global Editors Network (GEN)
Human Rights Watch
International Press Institute (IPI)
Italian Press Federation
Norwegian PEN
OBC Transeuropa
PEN America
Platform for Independent Journalism (P24)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Swedish PEN
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)