German journalists Thomas Seibert (L) and Jorg Brase, who were ordered to leave Turkey, hold a press conference in Istanbul before their departure on Sunday.

Two German news correspondents on Sunday were forced to leave Turkey after Ankara refused to renew their accreditation, a move condemned by Berlin as “unacceptable.”

Jorg Brase, Istanbul bureau chief for ZDF public television, and Thomas Seibert, a writer for the newspaper Tagesspiegel, had their applications for press cards rejected by the Turkish government for unknown reasons.

They were told they had to leave Turkey within 10 days.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on Saturday tweeted that it was “unacceptable” that German journalists could not do “their job freely” in Turkey.

He told Tagesspiegel it was “incompatible with our understanding of press freedom.”

At an Istanbul news conference held before they left Turkey, Brase and Seibert accused Ankara of trying to “silence” international media.

“The Turkish government managed to more or less silence national media, and now they are now trying to do it with international media,” Brase said.

“What we will definitely do is … keep on reporting on Turkish issues, but we will do it from outside Turkey, unfortunately.”

Seibert said he had been accredited as a correspondent in Turkey since 1997.

Relations between Berlin and Ankara had been strained following the failed 2016 coup and the arrest by Turkish authorities of tens of thousands of people including Germans.

But after the release of German citizens, including German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel and journalist Mesale Tolu, relations improved.

Around 40 foreign journalists in Turkey, including German reporters, are still waiting for accreditation.

German public broadcaster NDR correspondent Halil Gulbeyaz said this month his application for accreditation had also been rejected.

The German Foreign Ministry updated its travel advisory for Turkey on Saturday to say there was a risk that the Turkish government could “take further measures against representatives of the German media or civil society institutions.”

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday lashed out against International Women’s Day protesters, accusing them of being led by political rivals and of “disrespect” during the Islamic call to prayer, after police broke up Friday’s march by firing tear gas.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Istanbul on Friday in defiance of a ban by authorities, gathering in the city’s famous Istiklal Avenue, before baton-wielding riot police forced them to disperse.

In his comments on Sunday, the Islamist politician referenced an unverified viral video showing people chanting during the call to prayer.

“A group which came together in Taksim [Square, a traditional rallying point] led by the [main opposition Republican People’s Party] CHP and [pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party] HDP supposedly for Women’s Day behaved rudely with whistling and chanting during the call to prayer,” Erdogan said.

The “March 8 Feminist Night March” group issued a statement on Sunday condemning Erdogan’s attempt to use Friday’s rally as “election material” in the press and on social media.

“Police violence against tens of thousands of women taking part/trying to take part in the night march cannot be covered up with polarising language… fake news and hate,” the group said.

– with reporting by Agence France-Presse

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