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Turkey Deports Journalist for Tweets that Blasted Prime Minister, Amid Broader Anti-Speech Crackdown

Turkey under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has developed something of a reputation – emphasized in what has become an annual tradition [1] of watchdog criticism [2] – for being the world’s top jailer of journalists. Turkey’s legislature recently passed a law [3] institutionalizing mass censorship and surveillance of the Internet, triggering State Department “concerns” over freedom of expression. The moves come amid deepening fears [4] that Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) are seeking to systematically undermine freedom of speech.

This won’t help: [5]

Zeynalov told Al Arabiya News that the decision to deport him came weeks after a smear campaign against him both on social media and the pro-government media, with “many of them vowing that I will be deported… The notice to deport says my residence permit expires last month whereas I have a legal right to stay in Turkey until March 10. I am also married to a Turkish citizen, which gives me a permission to stay and work in Turkey,” Zeynalov added in an email statement after he left Turkey.

The institutionalization of anti-speech regulations has put Turkey at odds with, among other actors, the European Union. The new measures regarding the Internet drew criticism [6] from the E.U., which Turkey has been trying to join for decades. A Google transparency report published last December had already described Turkey, on the basis of a previous 2007 law, as China’s equal in web censorship.

The most recent moves are being read against the backdrop of an on-going corruption scandal that long ago slipped into open warfare [7] between Turkey’s two largest Islamist factions. Lebanese outlet Ya Libnan last month [8] assessed that the AKP was attempting to “increase control over [I]nternet access at a time when the government is also tightening its grip on the country’s legal institutions.” It noted that the regulations seemed very much like “part of a general trend in which the government of [Prime Minister] Recep Tayyip Erdogan… is concentrating more power” against judiciary figures linked to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who had launched and were at the time widening a corruption probe that has ensnared AKP elites (the AKP for its part has purged [4] hundreds of police and judicial officials).

Veteran international journalist Frida Ghitis already noted [9] in January that “the myth of the all-powerful, universally loved prime minister had started to look like a hollow personality cult” and that “the coalition on which he built his support has started falling apart,” and even The New York Times had seen enough: [10]

Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was in Brussels last week seeking to repair relations with Europe, but the first place to look for a solution is within himself. Once hailed as the leader of a model Muslim democracy, he has created a political disaster at home, transforming Turkey into an authoritarian state that poses dangers not just for itself but for its allies in NATO, including the United States.

[Photo: Bugün TV / YouTube [11] ]