Journalist’s Arrest Further Sours German-Turkish Relations
Turkish officials detained journalist Deniz Yücel on February 14th, 2017. The 43-year-old journalist, who holds both German and Turkish citizenship, writes for the German newspaper Die Welt. Turkish authorities charged Yücel with inciting hatred and spreading terrorist propaganda.
Yücel was arrested after reporting on hacking within the cabinet of Turkey, specifically on private emails of Turkey’s Energy Minister, Berat Albayrak. Albayrak is the son-in-law of Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In the past Yücel has been critical of the current Turkish government’s treatment of the Kurdish minority. The government has accused him of supporting the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), which is considered a terror group in Turkey.
Yücel’s arrest comes during a time of massive crackdowns on the media by the Turkish government following last summer’s coup attempt. However, Yücel is the first German journalist to be arrested. Outside experts have labeled the move as an intimidation attempt toward foreign media attempting to report on Turkey.
The prominent German-Turkish politician Cem Ödzemir led protesters in front of the Turkish embassy in Berlin. There is a trending movement across Germany dedicated to bringing light to the issue, characterized by the #FreeDeniz hashtag. Many across the political spectrum have criticized Merkel’s lack of response or concrete action, including the Greens, Die Linke, and the AfD.
This event is the latest in a string of events that have put a heavy strain on German-Turkish relations. In 2016, the German comedian Jan Böhmermann made satirical jokes regarding Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The Turkish government responded by demanding the criminal prosecution of Böhmermann.
Germany is home of a large Turkish diaspora, estimated at over 2 million. Turkish politicians have taken to campaigning in Germany due to the high number of people holding dual citizenship and eligible to vote in Turkish elections and referendums. German politicians have been speaking out in increasing numbers against the rallies and campaign events of Turkish officials in Germany, citing the illiberal trends and general hypocrisy of the Erdogan-led government.
There is also the refugee deal in place between Turkey and the European Union, which helped suppress the flow of refugees into Germany.
Turkey has long been in talks to join the EU. However, accession talks have gone cold in recent years as Turkey trends further and further toward illiberalism.