Azerbaijani journalist expelled from Turkey for critical tweets

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 February, 2014, 9:22pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 February, 2014, 5:49am


Turkey expelled an Azerbaijani journalist yesterday for tweets criticising the government, his newspaper said, stoking concerns about media freedom a day after new internet curbs provoked a storm of protest.

Mahir Zeynalov's deportation was yet to be officially confirmed, but a photo on Twitter appeared to show police escorting him through an airport on his way back to Azerbaijan.

It followed in the wake of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government rushing new internet restrictions through parliament that critics including the EU and Washington worry will limit free expression.

Activists called for a demonstration in central Istanbul tonight against the new restrictions, which still have to be approved by President Abdullah Gul, an ally of Erdogan.

Zeynalov works for the Zaman daily, a paper close to Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher living in the US whom Erdogan has blamed for orchestrating a recent corruption probe against members of his inner circle.

The newspaper said that Zeynalov was put on a list of foreign individuals barred from entering Turkey for "posting tweets against high-level state officials".

Zeynalov is already the target of a criminal complaint filed by Erdogan himself for tweets in December about the graft probe, with the prime minister saying he posted "heavy insults and swear words in a bid to provoke the nation to hatred and animosity," Zaman reported.

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said yesterday that Zeynalov's ejection "is a further setback for the dire state of media freedom in Turkey".

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists says that the aspiring EU member state jails more reporters than any other country including serial offenders Iran, China and Eritrea - most of them linked to Kurdish organisations.