An Austrian student journalist living in the Turkish capital was arrested early on Tuesday morning during a raid by anti-terrorism police, according to the Austrian Foreign Ministry. The Austrian Embassy has been in contact with the Turkish authorities and the relatives of the detained man. The Turkish authorities initially did not comment.
In a short message on its Twitter account “Re:volt” magazine named the arrested man as Max Zirngast, a journalist and student resident in Ankara. He was arrested at five in the morning along with some others by the anti-terror department. According to media reports, Zirngast is studying Political Science in Ankara at the Middle East Technical University and writing about his academic work. According to the report, the young man is said to have written analyzes that were published in left-leaning media and worked in the past for the left-wing pro-Kurdish movement in Turkey. He wrote articles in books such as “Kampf um Kobanê”, (the fight for Kobane) which deal critically with the relationship of the banned PKK workers’ party with Turkey.
According to the student’s lawyer, the men have not yet been interviewed. In line with Turkish law, they would have to be formally charged or released by Friday. As of yet, no charges have been brought against the three men and no explanation has been offered by Turkish authorities for their arrest.
President of Reporters Without Borders Austria Rubina Möhring has demanded Zirngast’s release. Holding “different political opinions should not be the basis for arrests or intimidation, but in Turkey this is happening more and more,” she said. In recent years the Turkish government has unleashed waves of severe repression against journalists and NGOs that it sees as lending support to Kurdish separatists or followers of Fethulleh Gulen, whom President Erdogan blames for a failed coup attempt in July 2016. This has created serious bilateral tensions with other countries whose citizens have found themselves accused of “terrorist activity”, as in the case of German journalist Mesale Tolu, Die Welt reporter Deniz Yücel or US pastor Andrew Brunson.
Turkey ranks 157th out of 180 countries in the press freedom ranking.