Press Freedom

German politicians agree on the meaning of ECtHR’s Deniz Yücel judgment: Journalism is not a crime

Announcing its judgment on Deniz Yücel’s application on Tuesday, January 25, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Turkey violated the journalist’s “right to liberty and security” and “freedom of expression” and sentenced Turkey to pay compensation. German politicians who commented on the decision of the ECtHR agree that Turkey should respect freedom of the press and expression and should stop criminalizing journalism immediately.

German ministers call for freedom of the press and respect for human rights 

Making a statement on behalf of the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Luise Amtsberg pointed out that the decision of the ECtHR on Deniz Yücel once again underscored the importance of freedom of the press for democratic societies. “This signal of support for independent, critical journalism goes far beyond this individual case. Today, therefore, I am thinking of the many other media professionals in Turkey and in other countries who are harassed and persecuted in the course of their crucial work,” said Amtsberg in her statement. Although she welcomed the decision of the ECtHR, Amtsberg underlined that it could not give back to Deniz Yücel the year of his life that was taken away from him by the detention.

In a statement made on his personal social media account, the German Minister of Justice Marco Buschmann pointed out that the ECtHR sent a clear message to Turkey with its Deniz Yücel decision. “It is incompatible with European values when undesired journalists are locked away in order to be silenced”, he wrote.

Claudia Roth, Vice-President of the German Bundestag and Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and Media, commented that the ECtHR judgment is important for press freedom everywhere in Europe. With this judgment, Roth explains, the ECtHR once again strengthened the protection of journalists against pressure exercised by states and underlined that Council of Europe member states cannot imprison journalists. Pointing out that journalists’ ability to report on events around the world freely and independently from their perspective is one of the prerequisites for freedom of expression and debate culture, Roth stated: “Press freedom is an important indicator to which degree fundamental rights are respected and guaranteed in a society.”

Following the announcement of the decision, Ministers of the Federal Government one after the other continued to issue statements on their personal social media accounts. Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research, wrote that the ECtHR sent a clear message with its decision in the Yücel case. Highlighting that “human rights and press freedom are not negotiable”, she called to continue the struggle for all those who are deprived of their universal human rights.

Describing Deniz Yücel’s 367-day long detention as “unlawful”, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner also noted that the ECtHR judgment is an important sign in terms of human rights and press freedom. He further commented that “the freedom of media workers is always an important indicator for the liberality of a society at large”.

Cem Özdemir: Deniz Yücel’s trial was clearly political 

Criticizing the ECtHR judgment, Agriculture Minister Cem Özdemir expressed that although the Court’s decision was welcome in principle, it remained incomplete. Noting that Deniz Yücel’s detention and trial were clearly based on political motivations, he stated: “The public statements of Erdoğan were unambiguous. For years, he agitated without shame against journalists, cultural workers, and intellectuals – and without further ado, those people ended up in prison on the grounds of flimsy accusations”.

Among those agreeing with Özdemir’s comment that the detention and trial of Deniz Yücel revealed a systematic problem was Norbert Röttgen, a former Federal Minister and current Member of Parliament of the Christian Democratic Union. In the statement he made on his personal social media account, Röttgen interpreted the ECtHR decision on Deniz Yücel as a confirmation of the ongoing systematic human rights violations in Turkey, where, as he further pointed out, rule of law and civil rights have been structurally infringed since 2016. In a statement he gave the newspaper Die Welt, Röttgen further said: “While Erdoğan continues to systematically destroy the common value base with Europe, the fact that there are still so many courageous voices shows the strength of Turkish civil society. We cannot give up on this civil society; on the contrary, we have to strengthen it.”

Turkey must fulfill its obligations as a member of CoE

Michael Roth, former Minister of State for Europe and current Member of Parliament of the Social Democratic Party referred to the ECtHR judgment as an “appeal to Turkey to grant unrestricted media freedom” and called for Turkey to “fulfill her obligations as a member of the Council of Europe.”

Making a statement on behalf of the German Federation of Journalists (DJV), Federal Chair Frank Überall called for solidarity with all journalists who are imprisoned or tried in Turkey. “As welcome as this decision is, we must not forget that journalists are still being imprisoned and persecuted in Turkey. We must remain in solidarity with our colleagues”, emphasized Überall.