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Media

Turkish media takes aim at German officials

Turkish politicians and media are criticizing German authorities on two fronts: for a neo-Nazi pre-court debacle and investigations into fires that injured Turks in Germany. Is Germany responding too slowly?

"Germany's tendency to delay investigating racist motives in crimes committed against foreigners can be seen as an attempt to protect racists and right-wing groups," journalist Bülent Kenes recently wrote.

A journalist at "Today's Zaman," the English version of a high-circulation Turkish newspaper viewed as being close to the Turkish government, Kenes criticized how German authorities conducted investigations into the deaths of 10 people, eight of which had Turkish roots. Kenes also disapproved of the pace of investigations into fires that killed a mother and her seven children in Baden-Württemberg and another in Cologne that left many injured.

Criticism from every corner

Kenes isn't the only one to hold such views. Many Turkish media reports on current events in Germany make references to xenophobia. The difference is how they do it, according to Zafer Atay, a board member and deputy secretary general of the Turkish Journalists Association. "It depends very much on whether a paper is close to or critical of the Turkish government," he told DW.

The courtroom where the trial against German Beate Zschäpe a member of the neo-Nazi group National Socialist Underground (NSU) will take place, 
Photo: REUTERS/Michael Dalder

The court made 50 seats in the press gallery available on a first come, first-serve basis

Not every Turkish newspaper is labeling Germans as racist, but to varying degrees criticism can be seen in all papers, Atay said. He points out that "Hürriyet," which is the country's highest-circulation paper and is critical of the government, wrote that "German police ignored neo-Nazi clues," and that "Turkish migrants fear the spread of xenophobia in German society." Atay said both pieces were "moderate and appropriate."

The high levels of interest in the German cases among Turkish media is normal, the journalist also said. The decision not to earmark seats for Turkish media during the trial of alleged neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe of the right-wing extremist National Socialist Underground has raised many questions among his countrymen, he said - as have recent fires in Germany.

"The court proceedings deal with eight murdered Turks," Atay said. "The fires also affected Turks. It's clear that the Turkish public is interested."

Political and public pressure

Politicians have drawn comparisons between recent events in Germany and a fire set in the German city Solingen by far-right extremists in the 1990s. Those fires killed two women and three girls with Turkish roots.

People at a memorial for people who were killed during a fire in Backnang
Photo: Franziska Kraufmann/dpa
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Memorials have been held for the victims of fires that injured and killed Turks in Germany

"Why are only Turkish homes burning?" asked Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag after the recent fires.

It's a question Atay says the politician is right in asking, adding that it could be a case of history repeating itself.

"Turkish politicians and media are putting a lot of pressure on German policymakers," Atay said, adding that Turks have a right to know what's happening during the neo-Nazi trial and regarding the recent fires in Germany. He feels it's up to the press to keep them informed.

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