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Sabah daily journalists released after brief detention in Germany

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Fatma Zibak

German police on Wednesday raided the offices of Turkey’s pro-government Sabah newspaper in Frankfurt and breifly detained two journalists, Sabah reported.

Sabah representative in Europe İsmail Erel and the daily’s news coordinator for its Europe edition, Cemil Albay, were detained following raids on their apartments, according to Sabah.

Cell phones and computers were seized by the police during searches of Sabah’s offices and the journalists’ apartments.

There were claims of the detention of additional Sabah journalists in other German cities that have not yet been verified. Sabah news coordinator Abdurrahman Şimşek said the daily was unable to reach 30 of its local reporters in Germany.

A local German prosecutor denied to Agence France-Presse that the journalists were under arrest but confirmed they had been charged with the “dangerous dissemination of personal data.”

The prosecutor added that “there were searches of private homes.”

The journalists were released after questioning by the police later in the day.

Sabah said Turkey’s foreign ministry has taken action to protest the detentions. The ministry later in the day summoned the German ambassador in Ankara concerning the detention of the journalists.

The ministry denounced the “harassment and intimidation” of the reporters, saying that the alleged detentions were “a deliberate act,” coming days after Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections held on May 14.

“Germany’s action against the free press, which aims to teach the whole world about the freedom of press and expression, reveals its double-standard approach,” the ministry said.

Although German authorities have not made any detailed statement concerning the reason for the detentions, Sabah claimed that Erel and Albay were detained based on complaints from Cevheri Güven, an investigative journalist who is currently living in exile in Germany and has been making bombshell revelations about the “dirty laundry” of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, and Ercan Karakoyun, director of the Foundation for Dialogue and Education, an organization affiliated with the Gülen movement in Germany.

When asked by Turkish Minute whether the detentions had anything to do with the complaints he filed, Güven said he thinks they do.

He said he filed complaints against some of the Sabah journalists in Europe.

In September Sabah targeted Güven on its front page, publishing secretly taken photos and his home address in Germany. The article targeting Güven was written by Şimşek, who is accused of having ties to the Turkish intelligence organization.

Güven is one of the hundreds of Turkish journalists and government opponents who had to flee Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 to avoid a massive crackdown launched by the government.

Sabah referred to Güven as the “propaganda imam of Fetö,” a term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

The Gülen movement is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Meanwhile, Fahrettin Altun, Erdoğan’s communications director, condemned the detention of the two Sabah journalists based on the complaint of “someone like Cevheri Güven who is a registered Fetö member” in a tweet on Wednesday.

Altun said the detention of the journalists and the confiscation of their equipment by the police is an open violation of the freedom of the press while voicing concern about pressure on journalists in Germany.

Altun’s remarks came at a time when dozens of critical journalists are behind bars in Turkey due to their journalistic activity.

Turkey, which is known among the top jailers of the journalists in the world, ranked 165th in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Güven has recently been facing growing pressure and threats from pro-government circles in Turkey as his videos continue to reach a large audience, even attracting more viewers than some mainstream news outlets in Turkey.

Journalists who fled Turkey following the coup attempt to avoid jail on bogus terrorism or coup charges such as Güven have established their own news outlets and have become the major source of news for some Turks in a country where 90 percent of the national media is owned by pro-government businessmen who toe the official line, according to RSF.

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