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Marco Werman: Our next story on The World takes us to a country whose government says is the freest country in the world for journalists. Here is Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu, responding last month to a question about press freedoms.
Ahmet DavutoÄŸlu: Turkish press is already free. I am sure that the gentleman doesn’t know how many Turkish newspapers are being circulated, how many millions of websites are functioning, and how Turkish governments, including myself, have been criticized heavily every day.
Werman: Dutch journalist FrÃ©derike Geerdink would not agree with that assessment. The government has accused her of terrorist propaganda and wants her jailed for up to five years. Her crime: posting messages on social media in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party. Geerdink joins me now. So, you’re awaiting your trial right now? Is that what’s happening?
FrÃ©derike Geerdink: Yes, it’s basically waiting, what I’m doing, until the 8th of April. That’s the first hearing.
Werman: Help us understand exactly what the crime is you’re accused of.
Geerdink: I’m based in Kurdistan, in the Turkish part of Kurdistan, and like any correspondent in any country, if you’re in Kurdistan, in Turkey, or in Germany, or in the US, it doesn’t matter, you try to explain what’s happening there and why this is happening, and that’s what I’m doing in Kurdistan. Now, Kurdistan is not an official country, but Kurdistan is known for a struggle for human rights that is going on here, and this struggle is framed in Turkey as terrorism.
Werman: Are you essentially being charged with practicing journalism?
Geerdink: Yes, that’s what it comes down to, definitely, yes. And also, what is I think getting on their nerves is that since I’m writing in Turkish, and like a Turkish journalist friend said, “Now you are sharing your opinions not only in English and in your own language, Dutch, but also in Turkish, and that is getting on the state’s nerves, so to speak,” she said.
Werman: I know Turkish journalists have come under a lot of pressure and scrutiny, and worse, but you’re a foreign journalist. How rare is that, that a foreign journalist gets under the microscope like this?
Geerdink: It’s very rare. The last time it happened was in the “˜90s. Last month, the anti-terrorism police came to my door and they searched my house, and I was totally flabbergasted when I opened the door and I saw eight anti-terrorist police standing in front of my door. But it’s like what you could not imagine in Turkey one day is happening the next day, and in the next week it’s already routine, so to speak. So, I try to adjust myself, and now this week the news came that I’m actually going to be prosecuted, and I am already not so much in shock anymore because, I don’t know, this is apparently the state of press freedom that Turkey has come to.
Werman: Well, despite what the prime minister and president of Turkey say, the country is considered near the bottom of the list in terms of press freedom. So, aside from the charges that you’re facing, how does that play itself out every day?
Geerdink: Well, for Turkish journalists, it has meant that many, many, many people have lost their jobs--that goes for opinion writers but also for normal reporters. For Kurdish journalists, they have been in trouble for much longer already actually, and they are the biggest group that are jailed, and they are usually charged under the same law that I’m charged with now, which is the anti-terrorism law.
Werman: You could just leave Turkey and these charges would go away, right? Why not do that and let this chapter pass?
Geerdink: It would give Turkey probably what they want. But it’s mainly that I really love my work here, it’s very interesting to write about the Kurds and about all the developments going on in the Kurdish issue here in Turkey and I want to stay. I don’t think they will actually throw me in jail. That seems kind of unthinkable now, even though last month it seemed unthinkable that the terrorism court would knock on my door, so you can never rule anything out.
Werman: Good luck to you, seriously. Journalist FrÃ©derike Geerdink based in Turkey. Thank you very much.
Geerdink: Thank you very much.