The Brussels-based European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), representing over 320.000 journalists in 40 countries, has been 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. Those media are suspected of being too close to the transnational religious movement called « Hizmet » led by the US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gülen .
Following a request for information introduced by the EFJ Brussels Office to the Zaman newspaper headquarter, at least eights cases have been reported where those journalists have been the target of Turkish officials :
- On July 17, 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.
- On July 11, Turkish Prime Minister filed a legal complaint 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 a journalist 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 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to change her job and leave the Zaman daily during a press conference.
- On February 13, Zaman correspondent Ahmet Dönmez was sharply rebuked by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan after asking him a question about recent allegations of corruption.
- On February 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 February 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.
« All those events are indicating a clear and systematic strategy of the Turkish Prime Minister to criminalize critical, opinion or independent journalism in this country. 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. Turkish Prime minister should end for all his never ending war against journalism and free speech. If he doesn’t like a tweet, he may just unfollow the user instead of launching massive legal retaliation procedure », says the EFJ.