Growing concerns over a reporter ′black list′ in Turkey | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 26.04.2016
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Growing concerns over a reporter 'black list' in Turkey

EU-Parliament President Martin Schulz and Reporters Without Borders condemn Turkey's treatment of foreign journalists. There's a growing number of cases of reporters who've been arrested or denied entry into the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently made it very clear that he is no fan of satire. And serious journalists aren't faring any better in Turkey. The editor-in-chief and another journalist of the newspaper "Cumhuriyet" are currently on trial for espionage and spreading state secrets because they published information on the Turkish secret service delivering weapons to Islamists in Syria.

In March, police raided the newsroom of Turkey's largest daily newspaper "Zaman" after an Istanbul court ordered a state takeover. The media group that publishes the paper is linked to anti-Erdogan cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Martin Schulz. (Photo: FREDERICK FLORIN/AFP/Getty Images)

Schulz takes a clear stance against Turkey's treatment of journalists

Recently, more and more foreign publications have had reason to wonder whether Erdogan is not only censoring Turkish journalists but trying to control international press as well. Several journalists from various countries have been denied entry into Turkey or have been detained while they were working there.

Politicians are criticizing Turkey's treatment of foreign press and worry about a possible "black list" with names of undesirable journalists.

"Lists with names of journalists have no place in democracies," EU-parliament President Martin Schulz told German daily "Bild Zeitung" on Monday.

Deportation and detention

Giorgos Moutafis, a photojournalist who has recently published pictures of refugees' plight in different publications across Europe, was trying to enter Turkey under an assignment for "Bild" on Saturday, but was denied at Istanbul airport. He was given no explanation except for the fact that his name was on a list.

A similar thing happened to Volker Schwenck, a TV correspondent with German public broadcaster ARD. He tried to travel from the channel's Cairo bureau to the Turkish-Syrian border area to talk to Syrian refugees in April. At Istanbul airport, he was detained by security and held for hours in the airport's deportation room.

Even Angela Merkel commented on the situation, saying that the government was following the events "with a certain level of concern." Schwenck tweeted about his experience, wondering whether his being a journalist was the problem.

Dutch reporter Ebru Umar, who is currently living and working in the Turkish coastal town of Kusadasi, was arrested last weekend. While she has been released from jail, she's not allowed to leave Turkey and has to regularly report to her local police station.

Umar has recently written very critically about Erdogan in the Dutch newspaper "Metro." It's not clear yet how her case will continue.

The NGO Reporters Without Borders Germany (RWB) is following the situation of declining press freedom in Turkey closely. Press spokeswoman Ulrike Gruska told DW that journalists in Turkey are working under increasing pressure.

"It's like there's a dark cloud over their heads," she said. "Anyone who writes anything that's critical of Erdogan can be personally prosecuted."

Gruska added the situation for foreign journalists has been getting worse since mid-2015, when fighting in the Kurdish territories picked up again, and journalists who wanted to report on that were deported without reason.

A jumpy Turkish government

Ulrike Gruska. (Photo: Reporter ohne Grenzen e. V.)

Gruska: black list would be a fatal signal for democracy

"This is something that didn't happen to this extent before," Gruska said. "We see a growing nervousness among the Turkish leadership, which apparently leads to these reactions."

The organization has no official confirmation of the existence of "black lists" for journalists, but is investigating the issue.

"If a country that calls itself democratic, and which is a candidate for EU accession, should actually have a list of people it denies entry because they're critical of the government - that would contradict all values we stand for."

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