World Association of News Publishers

World’s Press Condemns Arrest of Die Welt Correspondent Deniz Yücel in Turkey, Calls for his Immediate Release

World’s Press Condemns Arrest of Die Welt Correspondent Deniz Yücel in Turkey, Calls for his Immediate Release

Paris, Frankfurt – 2017-03-03

The World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum (WEF) have called for the immediate release of Deniz Yücel, a dual national Turkish-German journalist for Die Welt, who has been arrested in Turkey on charges of spreading “propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation” and “inciting the public to violence”.

Mr Yücel was initially detained on 14th February after reporting on the hacking of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak’s private emails. Mr Albayrak is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

On Monday 27th February, an Istanbul judge filed for Mr Yücel to be remanded in custody and, later that evening, the court ordered him to be detained pending trial.

According to reports, the court has also accused the journalist of propaganda on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK), a designated terror group fighting an insurgency against the Turkish state, partly because of an interview he conducted two years ago with Cemil Bayık, one of the PKK’s founders. Mr Yücel has regularly written about the Turkish government's treatment of ethnic Kurds.

The Turkish media has been victim of a crackdown on fundamental freedoms in recent years, in particular following a failed coup attempt in July 2016. Over 150 journalists are reportedly in jail as a result of the authorities’ actions, with many thousands more now unemployed as a result of the enforced closure of numerous media outlets – a move that has devastated critical and opposition opinion in Turkey and contributes to a climate of fear and self-censorship. 

WAN-IFRA has consistently spoken out against the erosion of press freedom in Turkey on behalf of Turkish colleagues, and dismisses the arrest of Mr Yücelas an attempt to intimidate foreign correspondents and further influence reporting from Turkey. 

“Under the pretext of protecting national security, it is clear that the Turkish authorities in fact aim to shut down critical debate in the country and further entrench the increasingly authoritarian rule of President Erdoğan,” said a statement from WAN-IFRA. “We deplore the situation facing our Turkish colleagues, while this latest step of jailing a foreign correspondent only serves to further underline the desperate need for the Turkish government to stop its deliberate and targeted campaign against the press. WAN-IFRA calls for the immediate release of Deniz Yücel and all journalists imprisoned or facing trial in Turkey simply for carrying out their professional duties.”

The statement from WAN-IFRA comes on the back of a meeting with Antonio Guterres, the new Secretary General of the United Nations, which took place in New York on the 23rd February. WAN-IFRA, RSF and CPJ urged the Secretary General to consider the creation of a Special Representative for the Protection of Journalists, part of whose role would be to act as an emergency response mechanism wherever, and whenever journalists may be threatened. 

“At this time, there is a growing need for solidarity around the issues affecting the safety and protection of journalists, particularly within the context of the UN Action Plan on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The Plan itself calls for a more cohesive, multi-stakeholder approach to tacking and addressing the issues; this includes state actors, and the Turkish authorities are sending all the wrong signals that they do not take these efforts seriously. By continuing to jail and harass journalists, shut down media outlets and undermine press freedom, Turkey is in fact working against common efforts to better protect the profession of journalism.”

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