Turkey Banishes Azerbaijani Journalist for Critical Tweets
Tweets about the ever-sensitive Turkish government have led to the deportation of Mahir Zeynalov, a blogger with Turkey’s English-language Today's Zaman, to his native Azerbaijan.
Police escorted Zeynalov and his wife, Sevda Nur Arslan, a Turkish citizen, to the airport on February 9 after officials deemed his presence in Turkey “detrimental to public security,” Today’s Zaman reported. Zeynalov claims that he had linked to news reports from his Twitter account about the corruption scandal targeting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government, which is notoriously thin-skinned toward public criticism.
The ability to cater to that sensitivity increased in recent days with parliament's February 6 approval of a sweeping Internet-censorship law.
At the request of the prime minister’s office, Turkish security agencies traced the tweets to Zeynalov’s account. Erdoğan filed a criminal complaint against Zeynalov, accusing him of stoking “hatred and animosity."
After his account was verified, Zeynalov was put on a list of foreign nationals banned from entering Turkey. In a February 7 statement, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Freedom of the Media Representative Dunja Mijatović termed the deportation and charges against Zeynalov "disproportionate sanctions."
"Freedom of expression does not stop at statements deemed proper by those in power, and limiting this right will further tighten the control of media in Turkey,” Mijatović said.
Zeynalov is essentially moving from one free-media-averse country to another. Turkey and Azerbaijan share not just Turkic roots and energy and foreign-policy goals, but also a reported habit of stalking government critics on social media. Last year, Azerbaijan made the use of offensive language and defamation online a criminal offense.
Deported from a rock to a hard place, Zeynalov said he might move to New York City, Today’s Zaman reported.
Giorgi Lomsadze is a journalist based in Tbilisi, and author of Tamada Tales.
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