German Magazine Pulls Reporter From Turkey Ahead of EU Summit


German magazine Der Spiegel has pulled its Istanbul-based reporter from Turkey out of concern that he is no longer welcome in the country, an embarrassment for Chancellor Angela Merkel as she pushes for an EU cooperation deal with Ankara on refugees.

In a statement, the chief editor of Spiegel Online, Florian Harms, said the reporter Hasnain Kazim had been relocated to Vienna after Turkish authorities declined to renew his accreditation.

The move comes at an awkward time for Merkel who is expected to lobby European Union leaders at a summit on Thursday to back a far-reaching cooperation agreement with Turkey.

Under that deal, European countries would give Ankara billions of euros, accelerate its EU membership talks and grant Turkish citizens visa-free travel to the bloc in exchange for a commitment to stem the flow of migrants to Europe.

"The behavior of the Turkish authorities has led us to conclude that our correspondent is no longer welcome because of the reporting he was doing there as a journalist," the Spiegel editor Harms said in the statement.

He said the magazine viewed the conduct of the Turkish government as "unacceptable." Spiegel did not say when Kazim had been pulled out of Turkey, nor whether other Spiegel journalists remained in the country.

Neither Spiegel nor the German Foreign Ministry responded to phone calls and emails on the matter.

The move comes two weeks after Turkish authorities seized control of the country's largest newspaper Zaman and a week after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned the constitutional court over a ruling that led to the release of two detained newspaper editors.

On Wednesday, days after a car bombing in Ankara killed 29 people, Erdogan called on Turkey's parliament to broaden anti-terrorism laws to make praise of violent acts a "terror crime." Rights advocates fear tighter laws could be used to a step up a crackdown on opposition journalists.

On Thursday, the Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) militant group, an offshoot of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), claimed responsibility for the attack.

"The heightened security situation, the conflict with the PKK and the importance of Turkey in Europe's refugee crisis are a welcome pretext for the government in Ankara to rid itself of unwanted journalists," the Association of German Journalists (DJV) said. "This shows Erdogan's insecurity and it won't lead the German media to take a less critical stance towards Ankara."

A story on the website of German broadcaster n-tv said Chancellor Angela Merkel had personally lobbied Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu at the start of 2016 when the accreditations of several German journalists working in Turkey were not renewed.

Then in early February, on the same day that Merkel traveled to Ankara for talks with the government, German reporters received calls from the Turkish government press office saying their renewals had been approved. Spiegel reporter Kazim never received his renewal.

Kazim temporarily left Turkey in 2014 when he received death threats following a story he wrote about a mining disaster in the western town of Soma that killed 301 people.

In the story he quoted a Turkish miner, angry at Erdogan's response to the disaster, saying "Go to hell Erdogan". The quote was also used in the headline of the story, which was subsequently condemned by Erdogan.

Source: Voice of America