Deported journalist Zeynalov says decision is arbitrary, baseless

Azerbaijani journalist Mahir Zeynalov, who left the country on Friday morning after facing deportation due to his critical tweets about the prime minister, said the decision to deport him is arbitrary as his resident permit expires on March 10.

“My wife and I did not return home in the last three days because they might have detained me,” Zeynalov said, adding that since he faced deportation and possible confinement prior to that, he decided to return to his home country.

Zeynalov said after AK Party propagandists on Twitter leaked on Feb. 3 that he would be deported, he decided to leave Turkey before the police took him. Zeynalov went to the airport in the early hours of Friday morning and turned himself in to the police at the airport.

“I told them there is a deportation order for me and I would like to leave the country,” Zeynalov said. According to him, the police denied that there was such a decision but he heard the police officer who accompanied him up until passport control telling his fellow officer to “stamp absolute deportation [on his passport] and send him.”

“If there was no order about me issued, why did the police accompany me up until passport control and told me that I cannot go do my prayers alone?” Zeynalov asked. He also noted that instead of the regular passport lane, the police took him to a separate lane where there was no one else.

He also referred to a phone call which the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman received from a police chief, asking him to make life easier for them by turning in the journalist.

Before his exit from the country, Zeynalov was also issued a fine of TL 103 because he was not allowed to leave the country while his application for the extension of his work permit was being processed.

Zeynalov’s wife, Sevda, also accompanied him to Baku. “Her life has also been victimized,” Zeynalov said. According to him, in order to punish him, the state has also effectively sent a Turkish citizen into exile.

He says that he will consider taking legal action against the Turkish authorities for the arbitrary decision which made him leave the country.

About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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