Raid on Turkish journalists in Germany angers Ankara – DW – 05/17/2023

Turkey said on Wednesday that it summoned the German ambassador to protest a police operation against Turkish journalists operating in Germany. 

Some early media reports spoke of the journalists’ “arrest,” although a statement from police and prosecutors later on Wednesday suggested they were briefly detained during a search operation and then released, but at no point were formally under arrest. 

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “the detention of Frankfurt bureau representatives of Sabah newspaper by the German police today without justification is an act of harrassment and intimidation against the Turkish media.” 

German officials did not name the individuals, saying only that they were men aged 46 and 51. 

Turkish media — including the affected publication, the German-language arm of the pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper group — reported that it was two senior reporters at the publication, Ismail Erel, Sabah’s most senior German journalist, and Cemil Albay, editor-in-chief of Sabah Europe.

The ages and names appear to match. 

The arrests follow soon after Turkey’s presidential election first round on Sunday and in the run-up to the runoff vote in which incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appears to be the favorite, based on first round results. The foreign ministry in Ankara also said the timing of the incident so soon after the vote raised the question of whether it was a “deliberate act.” 

What did German officials say of the raid? 

The public prosecutor’s office in Darmstadt and south Hesse’s police issued a joint statement on Wednesday saying that two private apartments had been searched as part of a preliminary investigation. 

The information that police made public also seemed to corroborate media reports that Sabah’s publishing of information about a supposed supporter of Erdogan opponent Fethullah Gulen living in Germany was the cause of the police interest, possibly violating German privacy laws. 

“In the context of a preliminary investigation by the Darmstadt prosecutor’s office on suspicion of the spreading of personal data in a way that could endanger the individual, police forces searched the private residences of two journalists, aged 46 and 51, on Wednesday morning in Mörfelden-Walldorf,” the statement said. 

“During the operation investigators seized electronic data storage devices among other potential pieces of evidence. At the conclusion of the criminal police activities the two men were released again.” 

Police and prosecutors said that to protect the ongoing investigations they were not able to provide any further details at that point. 

The European Center for Press and Media Freedom, a nonprofit based in Leipzig, shared an early English-language Turkish report on the issue on Wednesday and said that it “condemns the detention and will monitor the case.” 

“Press freedom must be upheld, we demand justice and transparancy,” it said. 

Turkey election: Erdogan still the man to beat

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Reporting on alleged Gulen supporter the underlying reason? 

The limited information from police appeared to corroborate media reports suggesting police interest was the result of the newspaper’s recent coverage about a man residing in Germany who is alleged to have ties to Fethullah Gulen. The front page of Sabah Avrupa (Sabah Europe) recently carried an image of the man’s private family residence in Germany. German laws on privacy protection in the media are comparatively strict.

Turkey often complains about people it deems terrorists or otherwise criminal, often either allies of Gulen or Kurdish activists, being able to live in Europe or North America. The country’s recent obstruction of Finland’s now-completed and Sweden’s ongoing bids to join NATO were justified on this basis. 

Germany is home to Turkey’s largest diaspora community. The roughly 1.5 million still-eligible postal voters in Germany were an important component in Erdogan’s first round success, with a far higher proportion supporting the incumbent from Germany than the roughly 49% of votes Erdogan claimed overall.

German lawmaker reacts to Turkey’s election

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msh/jcg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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