ISTANBUL, TURKEY - Germany's state broadcaster on Tuesday accused Turkey of “blatant violation of press freedom,” saying Turkish authorities confiscated video footage of its interview with the country's youth and sports minister.
Deutsche Welle said in a statement that ministry employees seized the footage after a spokesman for the minister, Akif Kilic, said the international news outlet wouldn't be allowed to air the interview dealing with the failed July 15 coup and its aftermath.
Deutsche Welle Director General Peter Limbourg called the action “an act of the Turkish regime's coercion,” adding that Turkey “no longer follows the rule of law and has nothing to do with democracy.”
Limbourg said a minister can't agree to an interview and then try to stop it from being aired “just because he did not like the questions posed.”
The broadcaster said Conflict Zone host Michel Friedman asked Kilic about the abortive coup and the mass layoffs and arrests that followed it. The interview also covered the position of women in Turkish society and the media situation in the country.
In addition, Kilic was asked to explain statements Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had previously made about these issues.
The subjects that would be raised during the interview were provided to Turkish authorities in advance, Deutsche Welle said, adding that several of its appeals to have the seized footage returned were rejected.
Limbourg said the broadcaster will “consider our legal options.”
A Turkish ministry official denied the footage was confiscated. He said Turkish officials used “no force” and Deutsche Welle handed the footage over after heeding a request not to air the interview because the host was pursuing an agenda.
The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity in line with government rules, said the ministry is well within its rights “under media ethics” to stop the interview from being aired.
"The presenter was not there to obtain answers, but to give a message with their own opinions,” the official said. “We would not allow the publication of disrespectful expressions that go beyond its purpose.”
Meanwhile, media freedom groups are condemning Turkey for using the state of emergency the country declared in the wake of the failed coup to legitimize what they said is an “unprecedented crackdown” on independent and opposition media.
Reporters Without Borders said in a statement issued Tuesday that the groups are urging Turkey to immediately release all journalists who were detained without specific evidence they may have committed crimes and to stop the government's “harassment” of independent and opposition media outlets.
A delegation made up of members from a dozen groups, including the European Federation of Journalists and PEN International, visited Turkey last week. The statement said Turkish media rights advocate, Punto 24, estimated that 114 journalists were in detention as of Sept. 2.