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German writers, journalists call for Merkel to defend freedom of expression in Turkey

Calls are growing for German Chancellor Angela Merkel to actively promote freedom of expression in Turkey. The pressure comes after German journalist Deniz Yücel was detained by Turkish authorities.

Hundreds of thousands of internet users in Germany have signed a petition calling on the German government to address Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's crackdown on free speech.

The petition, called #FreeWordsTurkey, was launched on Friday by the German Publishers and Booksellers Association, the German arm of PEN International, a worldwide association for writers, and Reporters Without Borders Germany. More than 125,000 people to date have signed the petition, which urges both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the EU Commission "to adopt a clear and resolute position on the current state of freedom of expression in Turkey."

The petition comes a week after German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel was taken into custody by Turkish authorities, the first German reporter to be caught in a widespread crackdown on human rights in the country that has seen around 120 media workers put in jail. The growing repression is seen as a response to a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016.

'Free the words!'

"Freedom of expression is in acute danger in Turkey," the petition says, adding that "the German federal government and the EU Commission are obliged to re-evaluate their policies with regard to the countries in question."

The writers of the petition also say that the German government is responsible for providing quick aid to journalists and writers affected by Erdogan's crackdown, "for instance by issuing no-bureaucratic emergency visa."

The online petition, which ends with the exclamation "Free the words!" is seeking 150,000 signatories in total and will be sent to both Merkel and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

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