Turkey - Will Turkey expel Dutch newspaper correspondent?

by Reporters Without Borders | Reporters Without Borders
Friday, 25 October 2013 03:48 GMT

* Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Reporters Without Borders calls on the Turkish authorities to quickly clarify the situation of Bram Vermeulen, a well-known reporter for the Dutch liberal daily NRC Handelsblad, who is having difficulty extending his residence permit in Turkey. Vermeulen has been based in Turkey since 2009.

Whenever Vermeulen returns to Turkey from a trip abroad, the immigration authorities tell him he is no longer welcome in the country, and he has not been unable to renew his press card, although no one will explain why.

"The Turkish authorities' ambiguity is unacceptable," Reporters Without Borders said. "If it continues, Vermeulen will in effect be banned from remaining in Turkey after 1 January.

"This would be the first time a foreign correspondent has been banned since 1995 and would constitute yet further evidence of the government's hostility towards the international media. We urge the authorities to either renew Vermeulen's press card or clearly state their reasons for refusing to do so."

Since the start of 2013, Vermeulen has been stopped and questioned five times by immigration officials on his return from a trip abroad.

"Each time they tell me there is a security problem or I am on a blacklist," he told Reporters Without Borders. "But they end up letting me in because I have a work permit that is valid until 31 December. No one, neither the Turkish embassy, nor the interior ministry nor any police station, can explain why I am being treated like this."

One immigration official told him that in future he would not even be able to obtain a tourist visa for Turkey.

Since April, he has been waiting in vain for the renewal of his press card by the General Directorate for Media and Information (BYEGM), an offshoot of the prime minister's office. He has repeatedly asked officials why he is the only foreign correspondent not to be renewed, but no one has given him an answer.

NRC Handelsblad's management and the Dutch foreign ministry have also tried, without success, to obtain an explanation from the Turkish government. Without a press card, he will not be able to extend his residence permit.

"I am not accused of any crime," he added. "I have all the papers that foreign journalists need to have. I see no [legitimate] reason why they are preventing me from doing my job."

Vermeulen says his coverage of the Gezi Park protests could not be the reason because his problems began before then. He has nonetheless covered many sensitive subjects and has, for example, interviewed members of Turkey's Kurdish armed separatist movement.

He also did a report on the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party–Front (DHKP-C), a small far-left terrorist group that threatened the Dutch NATO troops that were supposed to secure the border between Turkey and Syria.

The last foreign journalist to be treated like this was Reuters correspondent Aliza Markus in 1995. After she was tried and acquitted by a national security court in connection with her coverage of Kurdish villages emptied by the Turkish army, her press card was not renewed and, as result, she had to leave.

(Photo: Jeff Barbee/ Twitter)