The United States shares concerns expressed elsewhere that the deportation of Today’s Zaman journalist Mahir Zeynalov is not “fundamental freedoms,” a State Department Spokesperson has said on Friday.
Zeynalov, a Today’s Zaman reporter and blogger, was forced to leave Turkey today after he shared tweets critical of the government.
When asked about Zeynalov being deported by the Turkish government, US State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, “We are looking into these unsettling reports. As we have said, we have been and continue to be strong advocates for freedom of expression around the world, and we believe that democracies are strengthened by the diverse voices of their people. We look to Turkey as a democracy and ally to uphold the fundamental freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.”
Psaki later added that the US believes “an independent pluralistic media is critical to a healthy and strong democracy.”
Zeynalov, a national of Azerbaijan, has been put on a list of foreign individuals who are barred from entering Turkey under Law No. 5683, because of “posting tweets critical of high-level state officials,” Today's Zaman has learned. The decision, dated Feb. 4, was signed by Deputy Police Chief Ali Baştürk on behalf of the interior minister.
Article 19 of Law No. 5683, which covers foreigners' residence in Turkey, allows the deportation of foreigners “whose residence in Turkey is considered detrimental to public security and political and administrative requirements.”
The US-based organization Freedom House said in Twitter comments on Thursday that deporting Zeynalov is intimidation of the press. On Monday, Freedom House also released a report titled “Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media and Power in Turkey,” roundly criticizing the Turkish government's attitude toward the media.