Media freedom in Turkey takes another blow


Date posted: February 8, 2014

TULIN DALOGLU

The feud between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s camp and US-based Sunni religious leader Fethullah Gulen supporters, which hit the surface about two months ago by the revelation of the graft probe against key government members, narrowed down to one single name today, Feb. 7: Mahir Zeynalov. This Azeri-born columnist for Today’s Zaman, identified as a supporter of the Gulen movement in Istanbul, was deported earlier in the day because he posted two tweets on Dec. 25, drawing attention to news articles that talked about Erdogan’s troubling relationship with Yasin al-Qadi, whom the United States considers to be the financier of al-Qaeda.

For Celil Sagir, Today’s Zaman deputy executive editor, however, his deportation has a broader message. “We should not look at Mahir Zeynalov’s deportation as an issue between the two [Erdogan and Gulenist] sides. This is an outright chilling message to all the foreign media — name it: Reuters, BBC, CNN or others, that they should think twice before criticizing the government,” Sagir told Al-Monitor. Zeynalov used to be a sympathizer of the Erdogan government’s policies, but he gradually started to shift his position after the Gezi Park protests in late May and early June.

On Dec. 25, he sent out two tweets. “The first tweet contained a link to a news report about the second wave of a massive graft operation and how police blocked a raid involving more than 40 suspects, including Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi — listed as a specially designated terrorist by the United States,” Today’s Zaman reported Jan. 31. Zeynalov’s tweets are no longer present on his Twitter account. “’Turkish prosecutors order police to arrest al-Qaeda affiliates, Erdogan’s appointed police chiefs refuse to comply,’ read the first tweet. In the second tweet, Zeynalov shared a news report detailing al-Qaeda suspects’ escape from the country after police chiefs blocked the raid on Dec. 25.”

Erdogan’s lawyers filed a criminal complaint about these tweets with an assertion that these contained “heavy insults and swear words in a bid to provoke the nation to hatred and animosity.” Celil Sagir, however, finds this accusation baseless. “The problem is that Zeynalov has more than 84,000 followers on his account where he tweets in English, and has about 58,000 on his account in Turkish. But, to claim that he provoked people to hatred and animosity is not a rational accusation. How many of the 76 million in Turkey know English? Moreover, he just shared what the news already reported in those tweets. He was not even making a commentary.”

In 1998, as the popular mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan himself was sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for reading a poem that the judge considered as inciting religious hatred: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers,” he had recited. Erdogan was freed in 1999 after serving four months and returned to politics.

Sagir also drew attention to pro-Erdogan social media activists, who have “actively been pursuing a smear campaign against Zeynalov; twisted his tweets and accused him of things that he did not say or do at certain Internet sites,” Sagir told Al-Monitor.

Separate from Erdogan’s criminal complaint though, Sagir said that an anonymous tip was made to the Prime Ministry’s Coordination Center, where Zeynalov was accused of making “statements contrary to the facts” detrimental to the government. Today’s Zaman reported Feb. 6, “That application was followed by a formal request to police intelligence to identify the owner of the account, and the intelligence unit discovered the account’s owner to be Zeynalov. The decision to deport Zeynalov and ban his entry into Turkey came following the verification that the account in question belongs to Zeynalov.”

Zeynalov and his Turkish wife, Sevda Nur Arslan, went to the airport this morning, Feb. 7, to leave for Baku with self-purchased tickets for the 9:15 flight. “I went to the airport police to tell them that I will be leaving for Baku,” Mahir Zeynalov told Al-Monitor from Baku. “It seems, however, there is a procedure for people to be deported: that the police need to pick them up from their house and take them to the airport. As I had no clue about this procedure, and as I showed up at the airport myself, they cut me a penalty for 103.40 Turkish lira [$46.56]. I paid it.”

Zeynalov also said that he has been deported from the country indefinitely. “I am married to a Turk, and that automatically gives me the residency and work permits,” he said. “I can even become a Turkish citizen in three years. That is what the law says. There are many lawyers who volunteered to take this case [to appeal the deportation decision], and I hope to be back in Turkey by resolving this issue. Otherwise, I can only be back by the special permission of the interior minister — that is what the legal procedure is.”

Besides being married to a Turk, Zeynalov is a book-perfect foreign journalist working in Turkey, where his work papers are fully in order. He has a “yellow press ID,” which is issued by the Directorate General of Press and Information (BYEGM). Sagir said, “He filed for his press card’s renewal, but he was told by the people in the BYEGM in January that they received orders from higher offices, and that although his papers are complete they won’t be able to reissue his press card.”

Despite Al-Monitor’s inquiry, the Azerbaijan Embassy in Ankara did not comment on the deportation of Zeynalov. Although Azerbaijan is also a troubled country with freedom of the media, Zeynalov said, “My deportation can be regarded as a symbol where censorship hits a climax in Turkey.”

Source: Al Monitor , February 7, 2014


Related News

Erdoğan: Our people will punish Gülenists in the streets if they ever get out of jail

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a public speech on Wednesday that if people affiliated with Turkey’s Gülen group are released from prison after completing their prison terms, the Turkish public will “punish them in the streets.”

Central bank data disprove interior minister’s rigging claims

Ala’s remarks were widely interpreted as a reference to Bank Asya, a participation bank affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which the government has tried to scapegoat through conspiracy theories to evade corruption allegations. Some news stories broke soon after Ala’s claims, reporting that Bank Asya’s accounts were being scrutinized for misconduct.

McGill University Prof: Turkish President Erdogan Wrong To Blame Man Of Prayer For Coup

For Gülen, a man of prayer, the Qur’an contains an ethic of citizenship. In the name of Islam, he advocates education, productivity, dialogue with the sciences and universal friendship. These are the values promoted by Hizmet, the Gülen Movement. While religiously based, Hizmet is an educational movement. It is obvious that the faith-based Hizmet has no affinity whatever with the secularism of the military clique that staged the recent revolt.

Three ministers resign as one urges PM to step down amid corruption probe

Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar, in a harsh statement, claimed that he had been pressured to submit his own resignation to save the prestige of the government, adding that the prime minister should also quit as most of the amendments on construction plans mentioned in the corruption investigation were made on Erdoğan’s orders.

Erdoğan calls on US to extradite Gülen in return for jailed US pastor in Turkey

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called on the US to extradite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen in return for releasing American pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been jailed in Turkey since October 2016.

Gov’t profiling of individuals found unacceptable, unlawful

FATMA DİŞLİ ZIBAK, İSTANBUL Human rights advocates and legal experts have voiced their uneasiness about claims suggesting that the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) has profiled individuals whom it believes to be followers of certain religious and faith-based groups, describing the practice as being illegitimate and a violation of human rights. According to […]

Latest News

Fethullah Gülen’s Condolence Message for South African Human Rights Defender Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Hizmet Movement Declares Core Values with Unified Voice

Ankara systematically tortures supporters of Gülen movement, Kurds, Turkey Tribunal rapporteurs say

Erdogan possessed by Pharaoh, Herod, Hitler spirits?

Devious Use of International Organizations to Persecute Dissidents Abroad: The Erdogan Case

A “Controlled Coup”: Erdogan’s Contribution to the Autocrats’ Playbook

Why is Turkey’s Erdogan persecuting the Gulen movement?

Purge-victim man sent back to prison over Gulen links despite stage 4 cancer diagnosis

University refuses admission to woman jailed over Gülen links

In Case You Missed It

To be able to confront coups

Fethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey’s Democracy

AK Party government removing critical voices from state bodies

Democracy is vanishing in Turkey, specialist says

Turkish Authorities Deny Funeral Service for Drowned Gulen Supporters and babies

Unexpected consequences [of prep schools in Turkey]

Policeman who fought against putchists arrested while getting treatment at hospital

Copyright 2024 Hizmet News