Istanbul, April 8, 2015–The Committee to Protect Journalists calls on Turkish authorities to improve conditions for international reporters after news reports said German freelance photographer Andy Spyra, who flew to Istanbul to cover the anniversary of the Armenian massacre, was denied entry to the country. Separately, the trial of Dutch freelance journalist Fréderike Geerdink, who is facing terrorism charges over her reporting on the Kurdish minority, began today, according to news reports.
“Turkey has become increasingly hostile to international journalists, particularly those who cover sensitive topics, such as the plight of the Kurdish and Armenian minorities,” CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Nina Ognianova said. “We call on Turkish authorities to allow journalists to do their work freely, including by scrapping the absurd criminal case against Fréderike Geerdink and allowing entry to Andy Spyra.”
On March 29, Turkish authorities expelled Spyra, who had arrived in Istanbul the day before on assignment for the German magazine Der Spiegel, according to local and international press reports. He was denied entry to the country, detained overnight at the airport, and then put on a plane to Germany, reports said. After he was expelled, Spyra told reporters he had intended to cover the 100th anniversary of the Armenian massacre, a sensitive topic in Turkey. The government refuses to use the term genocide even though historians believe about 1.5 million Armenians were killed.
When he arrived at Istanbul’s Atatürk international airport, plain-clothes security officers took Spyra aside and searched his luggage, paying special attention to his camera and other reporting equipment, according to multiple press reports. Despite support from the German Embassy, authorities citing “security reasons” sent him back to Germany, according to reports. Spyra told reporters that Turkish authorities accused him of having ties to Islamic extremists.
Separately, at today’s hearing in Geerdink’s trial at a criminal court in the southeast regional capital of Diyarbakir, a prosecutor who recently took over the case called for the journalist to be acquitted of all charges. The court is expected to rule in the case on April 13, and Geerdink’s attorney said an acquittal is expected, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Geerdink was indicted on February 1 with “making propaganda” for the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Union of Communities in Kurdistan (KCK) through her reporting and social media posts, according to CPJ research. On January 6, terrorism police raided Geerdink’s home, reports said. The journalist, who has been based in Diyarbakir since 2012, was briefly detained and interrogated the same day as part of an investigation into allegations that she created “propaganda for a terrorist organization,” reports said.
A Diyarbakir prosecutor claimed at the time that Geerdink was spreading propaganda through social media posts and her regular column for the independent Turkish news website Diken, according to news reports. As her portfolio on the writers’ platform Beacon shows, Geerdink focuses on covering the plight of the Kurdish minority, politics, and human rights in Turkey.