Turkish police detained a Dutch reporter on terrorism charges on Tuesday, highlighting accusations of media persecution on a day President Tayyip Erdogan declared that Turkish journalists enjoyed more freedom than any in Europe.
Frederike Geerdink, based in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, tweeted that police had searched her home and were taking her into custody on charges related to “propaganda for a terrorist organisation”. The Dutch Foreign Minister, on a visit to Ankara, said he was shocked.
A police official said on condition of anonymity that Geerdink, a prolific Twitter user who reports for Dutch radio and newspapers including Het Parool in the Netherlands and Britain’s Independent, had been detained on the prosecutor’s order and would be released after giving a statement.
President Erdogan rejected “false” stories in the Western media depicting Turkey as increasingly undemocratic under his 12-year-old rule.
“There is an attempt to tarnish Turkey by using press freedom when it is in fact measures taken against terrorism,” Erdogan said in a speech to Turkish ambassadors that coincided with Geerdink’s detention.
“I dispute this. Nowhere in Europe or in other countries is there a media that is as free as the press in Turkey,” he said.
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders, who is due to meet his counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu, said on Twitter: “Shocked at the arrest of @fgeerdink. Will bring this up personally with my colleague Cavusoglu here in Ankara.”
Though the detention of a foreign journalist is rare in Turkey, Turkish reporters and editors are frequently at risk of arrest for things they write or say.
Last week, two journalists were detained for tweets they sent that were critical of Turkish authorities, and last month the editor of an opposition newspaper was charged with belonging to a terrorist organisation.
The European Union, which Turkey aspires to join, has said the harassment, including detentions, of members of the press violates the bloc’s human rights criteria.
Turkey ranked 154 out of 180 in press-freedom advocacy group Reporters Without Borders’ 2014 World Press Freedom Index.
Geerdink, a freelancer based in Turkey since 2006, is the author of “De jongens zijn dood” (“The Boys Are Dead”), a book published last year that examines the 2011 bombing by Turkish military planes that killed 35 Kurdish civilians.
Reached by telephone, Geerdink was unable to speak but could be heard saying: “I am not dangerous” and “I am a researcher and journalist.”