Berlin marked World Press Freedom Day by holding a concert in solidarity with journalists in prison around the world. The event highlighted the plight of German-Turkish reporter Deniz Yucel in particular.
The World Press Freedom Day concert event outside the Brandenburg Gate was entitled "Here's to the press" and attracted numerous performers as well as human rights activists, such as Amnesty International Germany Secretary General of Markus Beeko. Several editors-in-chief of major news publications were also in attendance, as roughly a thousand people celebrated the importance of freedom of speech.
The performance was dedicated to journalist Deniz Yucel in particular. The German-Turkish reporter, who works for the daily "Die Welt" newspaper, has been in remand since February. "Die Welt" editor-in-chief Ulf Poschardt told journalists, "We won't stop until Deniz is released," adding that he was concerned with regard to the conditions in which Yucel was being held.
"Solitary confinement is a living hell for him. It's torture, and it's being deployed deliberately to break someone down," Poschardt said.
German government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day that Germany would continue to defend freedom of the press "over and over again - in and beyond Europe."
"At the gates of Europe, one journalist is being arrested after the next," Seibert commented on the purge in Turkey. "We commemorate Deniz Yucel and many others (on this day)."
Criticism against German government
There also were protests outside the Turkish Embassy in Berlin, with demonstrators demanding the release of imprisoned journalists including Yucel. About 150 journalists are assumed to be behind bars in Turkey, with many facing allegations of supporting terror groups. Amnesty International had organized the rally alongside Reporters Without Borders (RSF). An image saying "Free Deniz Yucel" was also projected onto the embassy building.
The managing director of RSF Germany, Christian Mihr, stressed that many of the imprisoned journalists in Turkey had been waiting for months to be charged.
Mihr also expressed his dismay at Merkel's government's slow reaction to Turkey's clampdown on the freedom of the press.
He decried the chancellor and other German politicians for waiting for a German national to be affected by the situation in Turkey before ever mentioning the name of any journalist behind bars there.
"Reporters Without Borders would have welcomed if other representatives of the press, who don't happen to be German" had elicited a similar reaction, Mihr said.
ss/sms (AFP, epd)