January 6, 2015 / 2:18 PM / 5 years ago

Turkey briefly detains Dutch journalist in 'terror' probe

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish police briefly detained a Dutch reporter on terrorism-related charges on Tuesday, highlighting accusations of media persecution on a day President Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkish journalists enjoyed more freedom than any in Europe.

Journalists demanding freedom for the media take part in a protest in Ankara February 15, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Frederike Geerdink, based in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, tweeted that police had searched her home and she was being detained over “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”. The Dutch Foreign Minister, visiting Ankara, said he was shocked.

Geerdink tweeted three hours later that she had been freed after giving a statement to police. The head of the bar association in Diyarbakir told Reuters the case was connected to Geerdink’s tweets and other issues but did not elaborate.

Geerdink reports for Dutch radio and newspapers including Het Parool in the Netherlands and Britain’s Independent.

President Erdogan rejected what he called a false portrayal of Turkey in Western media as increasingly undemocratic under his 12-year-old rule.

“There is an attempt to tarnish Turkey by using press freedom when it is in fact measures taken against terrorism,” Erdogan said in a speech to Turkish ambassadors that coincided with Geerdink’s detention.

“I dispute this...Nowhere in Europe or in other countries is there a media that is as free as the press in Turkey.”

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said on Twitter he was relieved about Geerdink’s release and had discussed the issue with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“Freedom of press in Turkey, and this case, continue to be points of concern,” he said.

Though the detention of a foreign journalist is rare in Turkey, Turkish reporters and editors are frequently at risk of arrest for things they write or say.

Last week, two journalists were detained for tweets they sent that were critical of Turkish authorities, and last month the editor in chief of an opposition newspaper was charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation.

The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has said harassment of the press violates its human rights criteria.

Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in press-freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 World Press Freedom Index.

Geerdink, a freelancer based in Turkey since 2006, is the author of “De jongens zijn dood” (“The Boys Are Dead”), a book published last year that examines a 2011 bombing by Turkish military planes that killed 35 Kurdish civilians.

Turkey is negotiating an end to a three-decade conflict with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which declared a ceasefire in 2013, and has eased restrictions on media coverage of issues including language rights and political representation.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley in Istanbul, Seyhmus Cakan in Diyarbakir, Thomas Escritt in Amsterdam; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Ralph Boulton

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