ISTANBUL — Turkey's crackdown on members of the media took a new turn on Tuesday when a European journalist found herself in the line of fire.
Frederike Geerdink, a Dutch journalist based in the Kurdish-majority province of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, posted an alarming message to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon. It said her home had been searched by eight members of the country's anti-terrorism police and that she was being taken to a police station. She added: "[My] charge: 'propaganda for [a] terrorist organization.'"
Geerdink, who has reported from Turkey since 2006, focuses on Kurdish issues, which includes covering Turkey's fight against Kurdish separatists in a war that has claimed more than 40,000 lives in the last three decades. She moved to Diyarbakir in 2012 and describes herself as the only foreign journalist based there.
For years, the government has used widely criticized "anti-terror" laws to lock up local reporters over the conflict, earning Turkey notoriety as one of the world's top jailers of journalists. But Geerdink's apparent arrest was jarring because foreign journalists have rarely, if ever, found themselves targeted under these laws.
The Dutch foreign minister, Bert Koender, was on a visit to Ankara when the news broke. A statement on the Dutch Foreign Ministry's Twitter page said he was "shocked" and "will personally discuss this here in Ankara with my Turkish colleague."
The news also came on a day when Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, proclaimed that "nowhere in Europe or in other countries is there a media that is as free as the press in Turkey" — a remark that drew widespread scorn.
Geerdink's detention likely stems from her coverage of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, or PKK, which is currently engaged in peace talks with the Turkish government. But it comes on the heels of a series of arrests of local journalists and other challenges to freedom of speech in the country, such as the detention of a high school student accused of insulting Erdogan.
Last month, several prominent members of the media were detained in high-profile police raids, and two more journalists were detained last week, reportedly for their tweets. The government has painted such moves as part of Erdogan's struggle with a rival, the Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen, whom it has accused of trying to orchestrate a coup with his supporters in the police, judiciary, and media. But independent observers have warned about a worsening climate for press freedom in Turkey.
Later on Tuesday, hours after her initial post, Geerdink posted an update on her Twitter feed saying she'd been released after giving a statement at the police station:
"free again. terrorism squad takes me home now. i insisted on that :-p"
Mike Giglio is a correspondent for BuzzFeed News based in Istanbul. He has reported on the wars in Syria and Ukraine and unrest around the Middle East. His secure PGP fingerprint is DD2D D9F4 F1B5 204B 8069 3056 D916 4D69 9ED6 04D5
Contact Mike Giglio at email@example.com.
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