Immediately following the recording of a television interview with the Turkish minister of youth and sports, Akif Cagatay Kilic, for DW's talk show "Conflict Zone," Turkish authorities confiscated the video footage.
The interview with DW host Michel Friedman took place in Ankara on the evening of September 5. The interview at the ministry of youth and sports in Ankara included topics which had been divulged to the ministry in advance.
Host Michel Friedman asked about the coup attempt in July as well as the mass layoffs and arrests that took place in its aftermath. He asked about the media situation in Turkey as well as the position of women in Turkish society. The minister was asked to further explain several quotes made by President Erdogan regarding these subjects.
Immediately following the interview, the minister excused himself. As soon as he had left the room, the minister's press officer announced that DW would not be allowed to broadcast the interview. When Friedman and his editorial colleague protested, the video material was confiscated by employees of the Turkish ministry of youth and sports. It was made clear to the TV crew that they would not be able to leave the ministry in possession of the video footage.
DW protests confiscation
DW Director General Peter Limbourg spoke out about the behavior of the Turkish authorities today. He said: "This incident is proof of a blatant violation of press freedom in Turkey. What we are experiencing constitutes an act of the Turkish regime's coercion. It no longer follows the rule of law and has nothing to do with democracy. It cannot be that a minister willingly responds to an interview and then tries to block the transmission in such a manner just because he did not like the questions posed. We are requesting the Turkish authorities to return the video material straightaway and we will consider our legal options."
Immediately following the incident, DW appealed to the Turkish ministry of youth and sports as well as to the Turkish directorate-general for press and information and demanded the release of the video material. A deadline set for today at noon local time expired without any response. During several phone conversations with representatives of the ministry of youth and sports this morning, Deutsche Welle repeatedly requested the video footage. The response has remained unchanged: the ministry is not in agreement with the broadcasting of the interview.
In his statement made to DW's Turkish language department Übeydullah Yener, the Sport Minister's press officer said "There was no authorisation for the interview. The questions asked were not the ones that were planned. Mr. Friedman himself knows exactly why this happened. Some statements were right out allegations. In such a situation, there was no authorization granted."
On its website, the ministry later reiterated its denial of wrongdoing, shifting the blame to Deutsche Welle. It said that the broadcaster's interviewer had "overstepped the mark with expressions and accusations." As a result, the ministry had asked the outlet not to broadcast the interview. Defending the decision, it claimed that such a move was in line with a policy of "authorization" for interviews that also existed in Germany.
A Turkish ministry official also denied the footage had been confiscated. The official said that "no force" had been used and that DW had handed the footage over after heeding a request not to air the interview because, the ministry claimed, the host was pursuing an agenda.
The official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that the ministry was well within its rights "under media ethics" to stop the interview from being aired.
"The presenter was not there to obtain answers, but to give a message with their own opinions," the official said. "We would not allow the publication of disrespectful expressions that go beyond its purpose."
Social media reactions
The story has been trending on social media. One example is from Can Dündar, the ex-editor-in-chief of Turkey's center-left Cumhuriyet newspaper:
The German Journalist Union (DJV) tweeted: "We demand an immediate release of the interview. the federal Foreign Office must take action."
The co-chairman of the German Greens Cem Özdemir tweeted: "Is the government going to allow the public service broadcaster to be bullied in Turkey?"
(AFP, Reuters, AP)