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Germany Criticizes Turkey's Treatment of Foreign Journalists

FILE - German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas waves upon his arrival to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, March 26, 2018.

Germany's foreign minister criticized Turkey for refusing to issue credentials to foreign reporters, saying in an interview published Sunday that such actions were "not compatible with our understanding of press freedom."

The comment by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas followed several foreign correspondents recently having applications to renew their accreditation to work in Turkey rejected.

They include Joerg Brase, a correspondent for German public broadcaster ZDF, and Thomas Seibert, a reporter for Berlin-based daily Tagesspiegel.

"If journalists are prevented from doing their work, then that's not compatible with our understanding of press freedom," Tagesspiegel quoted Maas as saying.

"Without press scrutiny, [there can be] no free democracy," the German minister added.

Maas' office updated its travel advice late Saturday for Germans planning to go to Turkey, citing Turkey's treatment of foreign reporters

"It can't be ruled out that the Turkish government will take further measures against representatives of German media as well as civil society organizations," the ministry said.

The ministry also cited Turkey's "arbitrary arrest" in recent years of German citizens suspected of links to banned groups, such as the network of a Turkish cleric who lives in the United States. Turkey accuses Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers of being behind a 2016 coup attempt.

The detentions of two German-Turkish journalists — Die Welt's Deniz Yucel and Mesale Tolu — on terror-related charges led to a diplomatic crisis in 2017. Yucel was held for more than a year without being inducted and left Turkey after he was released. Tolu was allowed to leave in August.

In its 2018 press freedom index, advocacy group Reporters Without Borders ranked Turkey 157th out of 180 countries.

Maas said Germany would continue to discuss the issue of press freedom with the Turkish government.

"We have a great interest in a functioning dialogue with Turkey, so that such critical questions can be discussed as well," he said.