The German Association of Journalists (DJV) has advised journalists and media professionals to avoid private trips to Turkey due to the “incalculable risk” of being harassed for their criticism of the Turkish government or its president.
Gökay was held in custody for several hours due to social media posts in 2019 but was released after the German government intervened, according to her tweets and reports in the German media over the weekend.
DJV Chairman Frank Überall said in a statement issued on Monday that the brief detention of Akbulut upon her arrival in Turkey showed “once again that the Erdogan autocracy sees its critics as militant enemies of the state and persecutes them whenever they have the opportunity.”
He said when the parliamentary immunity enjoyed by a lawmaker does not protect her against detention, the danger for journalists is even greater.
In an interview with Südwestrundfunk, a regional public broadcasting corporation serving southwestern Germany, Akbulut, who has been a member of the German parliament since 2017, said she had been lucky in a difficult situation because she enjoys the benefits of German citizenship and immunity extended to MPs but that this is not the case for thousands of critics facing similar politically motivated charges in Turkey.
It was not clear which of Akbulut’s social media posts had triggered the investigation into her, but she has been a vocal critic of Turkish government policies targeting Kurds within and without Turkey.
“Any journalist who has ever made critical comments about Turkey, its president or the governing AKP [Justice and Development Party] in their own articles and on social networks should stay away from the country. Anything else is an incalculable risk,” added Überall.
Following a failed coup in July 2016, there have been many instances of the detention or arrest of Turkish expatriates upon their arrival in Turkey due to their social media posts critical of Erdoğan or his government.
Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yücel was kept in pre-trial detention in Turkey from February 2017 to February 2018 on charges of spreading terrorist propaganda, causing tension in German-Turkish relations. At the time the German Foreign Ministry said the release of the journalist followed months of diplomacy that included two meetings with Erdoğan.