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Council of Europe hears complaint about DW tape

September 8, 2016

Press freedom watchdogs have complained to the Council of Europe after Turkey seized DW interview footage. Both Germany and Turkey are members of the continental rights body.

DW Conflict Zone: Akif Çağatay Kılıç
Image: DW/M. Martin

The Council of Europe received a complaint from leading press watchdogs about a Turkish ministry's seizing of interview footage from Deutsche Welle. The 47-member council posted on its website that the European Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists and Index NGOs consider the confiscation to have a potentially chilling effect on media freedom.

"As a rule, Turkey responds swiftly and extensively to accusations," Council of Europe spokesman Daniel Höltgen told the German news agency dpa.

On Monday, DW host Michel Friedman (left in photo) interviewed Turkish Youth and Sports Minister Akif Cagatay Kilic (right) for DW's "Conflict Zone." Their exchange touched on the fallout from July's coup attempt, as well as press freedom under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the status of women as the government presses a hard-right agenda. At the end, Kilic's spokesperson instructed DW not to air the interview; when Friedman protested, the video was confiscated by ministry staff.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg described the incident as a "blatant violation of press freedom."

'Absolutely nonnegotiable'

Turkish officials do not deny that footage was taken, German Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schäfer said, but in a conversation with the German ambassador on Wednesday they did not describe the incident as a confiscation. Germany's federal government has supported DW's demand to have the video material returned - and without making a "deal," he said: "Press freedom is for us absolutely nonnegotiable."

The broadcaster has received support from Germany's leading cultural affairs official. "The seizure of material following a finished television interview with a minister, such as the case in Turkey yesterday, is in no way our concept of press freedom," Culture Commissioner Monika Grütters said. "This is highly alarming."

The relationship between Turkey and Germany has been strained following this summer's Bundestag resolution to recognize the Ottoman slaughter of Armenians as genocide, as well as developments in Ankara since July's coup.

mkg/sms (dpa, Council of Europe)