Opposition questions Turkish gov’t about deportation of Today’s Zaman journalist
Azeri journalist Mahir Zeynalov, working for Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman, stands with his wife Sevda Nur Arslan at Istanbul's Atatürk Airport on Feb. 7. Zeynalov left Turkey after being 'under deportation threat,' allegedly because of anti-government tweets. AP photo/Today's ZamanAn opposition MP has questioned Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan about whether Azeri reporter Mahir Zeynalov was deported from Turkey because of his Twitter messages criticizing the government, as is claimed by his employer, daily Today’s Zaman.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Chairman Sezgin Tanrıkulu asked in a written question at Parliament on Feb. 8 whether Zeynalov was deported without a court ruling, and demanded to know whether the government would deport all journalists of foreign nationality who post Twitter messages critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Today’s Zaman claims that the decision for Zeynalov’s deportation resulted from an application by the Prime Ministry’s Coordination Center (BİMER), following comments on his Twitter account that were critical of the Turkish government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Government sources have denied the claims, saying Zeynalov’s work permit was not extended and he went back to Azerbaijan of his own free will.
The paper said Zeynalov had a residence and work permit that was valid until March 10, 2014, adding that he had been married to a Turkish woman for 15 months and would be eligible for Turkish nationality in three years.
A criminal complaint was filed by Erdoğan against Zeynalov for tweets posted on Dec. 25 regarding the massive graft scandal that has gripped the country. Zeynalov has reportedly been put on a list of foreign individuals who are barred from entering Turkey under Law No. 5683, for “posting tweets against high-level state officials,” after he was identified as the owner of the Twitter account by the Turkish intelligence organization.
Concerns have recently been raised by the U.S. and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), as well as a number of press institutions, regarding media freedom in Turkey, and the Zeynalov case has been taken as another worrying example.