At least 32 journalists at the G20 summit in Hamburg had their accreditations taken off them by German police without explanation, sparking press freedom concerns. Some had worked in the Kurdish regions of Turkey.
At least four of the journalists who had their press accreditations confiscated by police at the G20 summitlast Friday had worked in the Kurdish regions of southeastern Turkey, raising suspicions in the German media that the Turkish government may have pressured German authorities into shutting them out.
According to reports by German public broadcaster ARD and the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the journalists’ press passes were taken off them without explanation, even after they had been in and out of the secured area around the conference center in Hamburg where the summit was held.
Chris Grodotzki, a photographer for Germany’s Der Spiegel, told DW that he had picked up his accreditation normally on Wednesday, but on trying to re-enter the conference center on Friday had been faced with police officers carrying a two-page list of names that they said they had been given by Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA).
He said the officers had been systematically checking all journalists going into the center. “Then they told me they can’t let me go in, and put me in a closed tent to one side, where I sat for a while, and then the superiors came and told me that the accreditation had been cancelled,” said Grodotzki. He added that he was not asked any questions by the officers, and that they themselves did not seem to know why the accreditations were being confiscated.
The German government has refused to release the list for “data protection” reasons, though Grodotzki said it was no problem for him to see it at the time, and believes that suggestion that 32 names were on it – reported in the press – sounded accurate.
No reason given
Nine of the journalists, who were mostly German, were later told in writing by the BKA that they were being shut out of the event “in consultation between the participating authorities.”
According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, four of these nine had previously worked in the Kurdish areas of Turkey, though German government spokesman Steffen Seibert insisted on Tuesday that the authorities mentioned in the letter were all German – and did not belong to any foreign government.
One of the journalists, Björn Kietzmann, a photojournalist at the Action Press agency who had worked for the taz newspaper among others, had previously photographed fighting at the Syrian border city of Kobane, on the Turkish-Syrian border. The same was true of Chris Grodotzki, a photographer for Germany’s Der Spiegel.
Kietzmann tweeted that his accreditation had been confiscated by the BKA on Friday:
Similarly, Willi Effenberger, a photographer for the Junge Welt newspaper who also had his accreditation confiscated, told the taz newspaper that he had once been arrested in Turkey, and had taken photos in Diyarbakir, one of the largest Kurdish-dominated cities of southeastern Turkey.
Adil Yigit, a Turkish journalist for the Avrupa Postasi outlet, who also had his accreditation confiscated, told the taz newspaper, “I think the Turkish side is behind this. The head of the Turkish secret service Hakan Fidan was with [Turkish President] Erdogan in Hamburg on Thursday. I took photos of both of them and reported on it. I think the Turkish intelligence agency passed that on to their German colleagues.”
At Monday’s regular government press conference, German Interior Ministry spokesman Johannes Dimroth refused to say what security risks the journalists represented at the G20, or even what kinds of security risks journalists might represent, on the grounds that this would infringe the privacy rights of the journalists involved.
Dimroth insisted, however, that the confiscation was “in no form meant as a criticism of their reporting.” The confiscations were “exclusively for security reasons.”