Three German journalists have been arrested in Turkey while covering unrest in the southeastern, mostly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. Two other foreign reporters were said to have been taken into custody as well.
One day following claims by Turkish President Recip Tayyip Erdogan that international media were playing a role in fomenting unrest among Kurds in southern Turkey, five foreign journalists were reportedly arrested in Diyarbakir, apparently while covering clashes between protesters and security forces.
Three of the reporters were German photojournalists, identified as Ruben Martin Neugebauer, Björn Kietzmann and Christian Grodotzki. They are accused of being spies, according to friends campaigning for their release. The nationalities of the other two journalists are not yet known. A German foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed to DW that the embassy in Ankara “had been informed and was working together with Turkish authorities to gather intelligence on the matter as soon as possible.”
According to a message published on Björn Kietzmann’s Twitter account, the three were arrested for covering Kurdish protests.
Erdogan threatens crackdown
Clashes between supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and police have led to at least three dozen deaths in southeastern Turkey in the past weeks. They followed protests over the perceived inaction of the Turkish government with regard to Kobani, a Kurdish city on the Turkish border in Syria under attack since last month by the self-proclaimed extremist group “Islamic State.”
Kurdish protesters calling on Berlin to assist Kobani have assembled in a number of German cities in the past week as well. In response to the unrest, Turkish President Erdogan has vowed to “clear vandals from the streets.”
“The Republic of Turkey would not be a state if it were not able to control a few thugs,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northeastern town of Bayburt on Sunday. “They may burn, but they will pay the price. We will go further,” he implored.
Meanwhile, Erdogan has also claimed that international media are involved in the unrest, according to Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). “There are media groups abroad who want to sabotage the peace process [between the PKK and Turkey],” the FAZ quoted Erdogan as saying on Saturday in the northern city of Rize on the Black Sea.
Turkey is ranked 154th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders. According to another advocacy group, the Committee to Protect Journalists, there were 40 journalists imprisoned in Turkey as of December 2013.