Journalists working for media outlets such as Zaman, Today’s Zaman or Taraf appear to be a new group of potential journalist targets for the Turkish authorities who have pursued a policy of criminalization against Kurdish, leftist and investigative journalists in the past, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has said.
The Brussels-based organization, which represents more than 320,000 journalists in 40 countries, said in a statement published on July 25 that it has been informed informed that Turkish journalists working for media outlets like Zaman and Taraf newspapers are under “regular harassment, threats or judicial attacks made by the Turkish authorities.” Such outlets, it said, are suspected of being too close to the faith-based Hizmet movement of US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
The EFJ has noted, following contacts with the Zaman newspaper, that at least eight cases have been reported where those journalists have been the target of Turkish officials and said all these events “are indicating a clear and systematic strategy of the Turkish Prime Minister to criminalize critical, opinion or independent journalism in this country.”
On July 17, the statement noted, Zaman correspondent Mehmet Dinç was forced to leave an iftar dinner hosted by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) at the European Parliament’s Strasbourg building.
In other instances listed by the EFJ, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan filed a legal complaint on July 11 against the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman Bülent Kenes over some messages sent via Twitter. On May 29, Zaman daily UK representative Kadir Uysaloğlu was asked to leave when Turkey’s finance minister commenced a speech at the Financial Times’ head office in London. On May 13, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has told Zaman journalist Servet Yanatma who asked about freedom of the press in Turkey that his country has a press freedom “if you can safely go home from this press conference.”
On April 4, Zaman correspondent Tuğba Mezararkalı, who was told by Prime Minister Erdoğan to change her job and leave the Zaman daily during a press conference while on Feb. 13, Zaman correspondent Ahmet Dönmez was sharply rebuked by Prime Minister Erdoğan after asking him a question about recent allegations of corruption.
On Feb. 7, Today’s Zaman journalist Mahir Zeynalov left Turkey for his native Azerbaijan following a government decision to deport him for posting tweets deemed critical of the government.
On Feb. 5, Zaman correspondent Derviş Genç was heavily attacked by the prime minister following a question about an alleged report prepared by the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) on Reza Zarrab and his network of corrupt individuals, which contained relatives of certain ministers in the Cabinet.
“Following years of criminalization against Kurdish, leftist and investigative journalists, it seems now that the Turkish authorities have added a new row of potential journalists targets,” the EFJ statement said. In what appeared to be a reference to Today’s Zaman editor-in-chief’s case, the organization recommended Erdoğan to unfollow a user on Twitter if he decides he does not like that user’s tweets, instead of filing a legal complaint against them.
“Turkish prime minister should end for all his never ending war against journalism and free speech,” it said. “If he doesn’t like a tweet, he may just unfollow the user instead of launching massive legal retaliation procedure.”