Turkey should re-instate accreditations for foreign scribes

Turkey should re-instate accreditations for foreign scribes

In today’s Turkey, it’s very rare that lawmakers from different political camps see issues eye to eye due to rooted polarization. But, still, it sometimes occurs, as was recently observed in regards to a bureaucratic decision that denied the accreditations of several German journalists in Turkey.

Mustafa Yeneroğlu, a ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) lawmaker, has expressed his disappointment with regard to this decision. “I have unfortunately no information why the related official institution has taken such a decision. In any case, I neither comprehend nor approve of the decision,” he was quoted as saying by the German media.

He went further by rightly emphasizing that “This decision tarnishes Turkey’s credibility and therefore is not to the interest of Turkey. Journalists work freely in Turkey and that’s why I think this decision will soon be corrected.”

The AKP lawmaker was echoed by Utku Çakırözer, a member of the Parliament from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP). At a press conference at the Parliament, he criticized the decision that refused the renewal of the accreditations of several German journalists who have also been denied to follow a press conference on the sidelines of Turkey-European Union High-Level Economic Dialogue last week.

“We have always opposed imposing restrictions to the journalists (through accreditations). We find this implementation inconvenient against both our journalists and foreign colleagues,” he said.   

Journalists should be able to report freely, he said, calling on the government to take effective measures to reverse the ongoing deterioration in the use freedom of the press in Turkey as he referred to latest reports on the state of journalism in the country.

Turkey’s poor media freedom record was re-brought up for discussion after news broke that the applications of two senior German journalists, Jörg Borse of the ZDF and Thomas Seibert, who writes for the newspaper Tagesspiegel, for renewing their press cards were rejected by the government. It was later found that NDR journalist Halil Gülbeyaz was also denied while there are dozens of other foreign journalists whose applications have not yet been answered.

There were no explanations by the government on the motive of the denial but it’s suspected that critical reporting by these reporters might have triggered the refusal. Both Borse and Seibert were reporting from Turkey for more than 20 years.

Germany has already carried the case into the diplomatic field, calling on Turkey to reconsider the decision. It’s closely followed by the EU as well which has recently unveiled its continued concerns on the state of democracy and the use of fundamental freedoms following a court decision on the writers and executives of the opposition Cumhuriyet daily.

Sources, speaking on the condition of anonymity, have turned the attention to the risk of potential retaliation by some European nations towards some Turkish journalists in the case they would be sure that these denials are purely political and in response to the journalistic activities of the concerned foreign journalists.

A new crisis over the state of freedom of expression between Turkey and Germany would be an unwanted development especially at a moment when efforts for stabilizing bilateral ties have been intensified since last fall.   

Plus, it would constitute a huge inconsistency with recently boosted efforts by the government to return to the democratic reform agenda through the meetings of the Reform Action Group which has pledged to produce a new judicial reform strategy that would also address some of the problems stemming from the prosecution and arrest of journalists.

As expressed by both AKP and CHP lawmakers, such restrictive moves against journalists are incomprehensible and unacceptable in the modern world. It’s our sincere expectation that the government re-considers the applications of these foreign journalists and paves the way for them to continue reporting from Turkey.

press freedom, Turkey, Foreigners