Germany's Spiegel weekly says forced to withdraw Turkey reporter

17th March 2016, Comments 0 comments

German news weekly Der Spiegel said Thursday it has been forced to withdraw its Istanbul correspondent and charged Turkey was violating the freedom of the press.

Hasnain Kazim, 41, was redeployed from Turkey, where he had been based since 2013, to Vienna after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's press office for months declined to renew his media accreditation, it said.

"This conduct towards our correspondent and thus against Spiegel and Spiegel Online is not tolerable in our view and violates the freedom of the press," said Spiegel Online editor-in-chief Florian Harms.

Harms said Kazim had "reported in an outstanding manner in recent years on political and social events in Turkey".

"In many reports he highlighted government shortcomings and mistakes in a fair but critical way -- as every good journalist does.

"The conduct of the Turkish authorities leaves us in no doubt that our correspondent is no longer desired there due to his journalistic coverage."

In May last year Kazim temporarily left Turkey after receiving death threats over his coverage of the country's worst mining disaster, in the western town of Soma, and of the official response to the tragedy.

Kazim said at the time he had received over 10,000 threats via e-mail, Facebook and Twitter, several hundred of which were death threats.

- Press freedom -

A diplomatic source told AFP that the Turkish government was also refusing press cards to a total of eight of some 20 German journalists based in the country, meaning they would likely also have to leave.

The source said the issue had been the subject of a discreet tussle for weeks between Ankara and Berlin, and had been raised in recent talks between Davutoglu and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been accused of authoritarianism and muzzling critical media as well as lawmakers, academics, lawyers and non-government groups.

As Turkey has waged a relentless assault on the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and suffered deadly attacks claimed by radical Kurdish groups, Erdogan said Monday he wanted to see the definition of terrorism expanded to anyone supporting militancy.

"The fact that they are MPs, academics, writers, journalists, NGO executives does not change the fact that they are terrorists," he said.

The departure of the Spiegel correspondent was made public on the day EU leaders met in Brussels to discuss a controversial EU deal with Turkey that would aim to curb the mass migrant influx to Europe.

On Wednesday Merkel had stressed that, although the EU wants Turkey's help on the issue, it would stick to its values and keep insisting on civil and minority rights in Turkey.

"It goes without saying... that we voice our convictions to Turkey regarding, for instance, the protection of press freedom or the treatment of the Kurds," Merkel told parliament.

© 2016 AFP

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