April 7th, 2015

Photojournalist Andy Spyra Deported from Turkey on Allegations He’s a Jihadist

Photojournalist Andy Spyra was barred from entering Turkey on March 28 because Turkish authorities suspected he was an Islamic militant, according to press reports. Spyra, who was on assignment for Der Spiegel, was stopped at an Istanbul airport, searched, detained and deported to Germany the next day. While in Turkish custody, the German General Consulate protested his detention and attempted to explain that he was a journalist.

Spyra, selected for PDN‘s 30 in 2010, has covered Afghanistan, Egypt, the Syrian refugee crisis, fighting in the Kurdish region of Syria and, last fall, Iraqi Christians currently fighting the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He was on his way to Turkey to work on a Der Spiegel story about the one-hundredth anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

According to a post on Spyra’s Facebook page dated March 29, he was stopped at immigration at Sabiha Gökcen Airport in Istanbul and questioned for only an hour, while police looked through photos on his phone and went through his luggage. They then returned his phones, but informed him that he would be deported in the morning. He spent the night in what he calls “a cell.” When he arrived in Dusseldorf the next day, German federal police told him that Turkish authorities had reported he had been deported because he was carrying “military-style equipment.” According to Spyra’s Facebook post, “the military equipment in question” was his camera dust-blower, army-style boots and khaki-colored clothing.

That Spyra was covering the anniversary of the Armenian genocide appears not to have been a factor, but Turkey has for decades officially denied that the deaths of Armenians in eastern Turkey at the end of World War I constituted genocide.

According to Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey currently ranks tenth in the world among the worst jailers of journalists. Last year, Der Spiegel pulled its reporter in Turkey after he received death threats over his reporting on a mine collapse that killed 301 miners in Turkey.  Last year the country banned access to Twitter ahead of national elections in March 2014.

In his Facebook post, Spyra advises other photographers who want to cover Turkey: “delete questionable images on your phone, anything that COULD potentially be read and seen in a military context.” He adds, “They WON’T listen to you and don’t give a shit about your papers and press-credentials and whatever else you may carry.”

June 11th, 2013

Photographer Injured in Istanbul Protests

On Sunday, June 2, photojournalist Antonio Bolfo of Reportage by Getty was injured in Istanbul after police forces fired tear gas canisters into a crowd of protesters and press. Bolfo was in the Besiktas neighborhood, covering demonstrations, when one of the tear gas canisters struck and broke his leg.

Bolfo says he and photojournalist Nicole Tung had been covering the protests for two days and that during that time they “had numerous close calls of getting shot with gas canisters.” He adds, “The police were not always lobbing them at the 45 degrees as they are supposed to, they were shooting line drives at us. They were aiming at people and using the canisters as a weapon.”

Tung had already left the demonstration to file her images when Bolfo was struck. However, photographer Patrick Tombola, one of several photographers and reporters covering the event, had stayed behind with Bolfo and helped him to a triage station at a local mosque. Bolfo and Tung later flew back to New York City for his recovery.

Bolfo happened to arrive in Istanbul on Friday, May 31, the same day that police began violently cracking down on demonstrations. The protests had begun in Istanbul a week earlier, sparked by an announcement that a public park in Taksim Square was being turned into a shopping mall. The movement has now grown into civil unrest focusing on the Turkish government.

Prior to arriving in Istanbul, Bolfo had been covering the civil war in Syria for several weeks, and hoped to use the visit to Turkey for rest. Instead, he and Tung spent two days covering the demonstrations.

There have been reports of police targeting members of the press during the protests, which Bolfo found was the case on the ground. Bolfo, who is familiar with police force tactics after documenting the New York City Police Department in his series “NYPD: Operation Impact 1” and “NYPD: Operation Impact 2,” says that police are often following orders from higher level government officials. “I think officials in the U.S. are more willing to let peaceful protests run their course,” Bolfo explains. “They understand, from history, that using force against a peaceful demonstration usually causes trouble for any government … Once violence is unleashed, it is very hard to cap. In this case, I think the police violence towards a peaceful sit-in is wrong. But I also understand that the police then need to react aggressively towards violent protesters to protect themselves and people’s property. It becomes a vicious cycle that is very hard to end.”

His advice to photographers planning on covering the protests in Turkey: “Once projectiles start flying, get to cover. It sucks being taken out of a story because of injury, or worse.”

*Update: Reporters Without Borders reports that photographer Mathias Depardon was injured in Istanbul on June 11 while covering police attempts to clear Taksim Square of protesters. Depardon said a projectile fired by police (he said he was unsure what the projectile was) struck his mask.

Related Articles from the PDN Archive:

What To Expect If You’re Injured on Assignment
Low-Cost Insurance For Photojournalists Working Abroad
2012 Marty Forscher Fellowship Fund Professional Winner: Antonio Bolfo
2013 PDN‘s 30 Photographer: Nicole Tung