Turkey: Where press freedoms are on the decline and authoritarianism is on the rise

Hasnain Kazim, who has reported for Der Spiegel from Istanbul for the last three years and has now been forced to leave, writes: On our last day in Turkey, my family and I are not in the mood to go, but we have to leave the country. After several torturous months of uncertainty and concern, we have no other option. We fear for our safety.

The bags are packed. The furniture, books, clothing, everything is gone. My son has been taken out of kindergarten; it was a painful farewell for him too. Before we drive to the airport, I write down a list of telephone numbers for my wife: colleagues, diplomats, friends in Istanbul. These are in case I am detained at the airport and my family has to continue their journey without me.

Since the beginning of the year, the Turkish government has declined to grant me accreditation as a foreign correspondent, thereby denying me the ability to work. As a German journalist living in Turkey, I need a residency permit — and this permit is linked to my press accreditation.

Accreditations are normally approved at the turn of the year, but this year all German journalists have had to wait unusually long. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutolu repeatedly assured Chancellor Merkel at the beginning of the year that all German correspondents would receive their papers. The German side relayed this message to us on multiple occasions.

I never received any notification at all. Officially, my request hasn’t been declined, it is being “examined.” But neither the Turkish nor the German authorities believed that my accreditation would still be granted.

Even worse, I received warnings. Turkish state prosecutors, who are critical of the government and its interference in the judiciary, told me that, if I were to stay in the country, I could conceivably be charged under some pretense. Perhaps for “supporting a terrorist organization” or for “insulting the president.” These are common accusations in Turkey against journalists who are too critical of those in power. Thus far, only domestic journalists have faced them. [Continue reading…]

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