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German ARD correspondent Schwenck held at Istanbul, returns to Cairo

A German public television correspondent has been refused entry to Turkey. Volker Schwenck has returned to Cairo after being held at Istanbul airport. He had planned to interview Syrian refugees in southeastern Turkey.

Schwenck's employer, SWR public broadcasting based in Stuttgart, said Turkish authorities initially gave no grounds for him being held in an airport deportation room for nearly 12 hours.

Schwenck had since flown back to Cairo, SWR added on Tuesday evening.

"Last stop, Istanbul. Entry into Turkey not permitted. A note against my name, I'm told. I'm a journalist. Is there a problem?" Schwenk had posted on Twitter early on Tuesday, attaching a photo of the paperwork he'd received at customs.

The incident came amid a row over a satirical show between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Germany's second public television network, ZDF. It also coincides with efforts to implement an EU-Turkey deal on the handling of refugees stuck in Greece.

The correspondent heads ARD's Cairo television bureau; SWR is a regional affiliate of the ARD national network. In the past, Schwenck has reported from rebel areas in northern Syria reached via Turkey.

Expulsion pending?

Germany's foreign office said that its embassy in Ankara and its general-consul in Istanbul had been in contact with the "responsible Turkish authorities and the person affected."

Turkey's state-run news agency Anadolu said Tuesday afternoon that Schwenck would be deported.

The German DJV journalists' trade union had demanded that Turkey release Schwenck immediately. A journalist affiliate within Germany's Verdi trade union said the incident illustrated President Erdogan's questionable stance on press freedoms.

"The action of authorities against Schwenck is simple harassment that can in no way be justified," said DJV federal chairman Frank Überall.

Pictureteaser Böhmermann Erdogan

Erdogan wants satirist Böhmermann punished

Überall claimed that Schwenck was paying the price for permission granted by Chancellor Angela Merkel to Erdogan to seek prosecution in Germany of

Jan Böhmermann, a satirist

who fronts a weekly ZDF show. Böhmermann is currently taking a break.

Berlin 'concerned'

Merkel, on Tuesday evening, said her government had been following the incident "of course, with a certain amount of concern."

Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel, on a visit to Morocco, said he hoped that Turkey "quickly corrects this mistake" so that Schenck could travel as intended to continue his reporting.

Gabriel heads Germany's Social Democratic party (SPD), the partner in Merkel's grand coalition government.

Broach press freedoms, urge Greens

Opposition Greens party media expert Tabea Rössner demanded that Merkel broach the topic of press freedoms during her planned visit to Turkey next Saturday.

"The detention of the ARD correspondent fits unfortunately the repressive policies, which Turkey has put into effect in the last few months in terms of press freedom and free expression of opinion," Rößner said.

Erdogan wants satirist punished

Erdogan is demanding that Böhmermann be punished under a special German penal code provision banning insults directed at heads of state.

Böhmermann recited a lewd poem - saying in the introduction that it probably crossed a line, even by German law - accusing the Turkish president of various misdeeds, including bestiaility and violence against Kurds.

This flagrant on-air insult on March 31 followed Turkey calling in Germany's ambassador over a separate, arguably less contentious, satirical song about Erdogan aired on another public broadcaster, NDR, based in northern Germany, earlier in March.

Merkel recently granted German prosecutors approval to determine whether to prosecute Böhmermann, despite objections by Social Democrats, although she did add that the special clause should in the future be removed.

'Closer look' at visiting journalists

SWR's Turkey-based correspondent Thomas Bormann said he doubted that Schenck's detention had been directly related to the Böhmermann row.

"The Turkish government intervenes more and more often in press freedoms. Apparently, they are now taking a closer look at foreign journalists," said Bormann.

Last month, the German news magazine "Der Spiegel" withdrew its correspondent Hasnain Kazim from Istanbul because his bid to renew his press accreditation went unanswered for months.

In terms of press freedoms, Turkey ranks at slot 149 on a list of 180 nations, according to an annual Reporters Without Borders study.

ipj/msh (epd, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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