July 19, 2014

Zaman correspondent thrown out of AK Party event at European Parliament

The Strasbourg correspondent of the Zaman daily was forced to leave an iftar dinner on Thursday hosted by the European Conservatives and Reformists Group (ECR) and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) at the European Parliament's Strasbourg building. 

Zaman correspondent Mehmet Dinç was forced to leave the dinner Thursday evening after following the meetings of Turkey's European Union Affairs Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu throughout the day. He said he was shocked by the treatment he received at the dinner event, saying he has been a journalist with EP accreditation for a long time.

Speaking to Today's Zaman, ECR authorities said they were not aware of the incident but added that the event was by “invitation only.” “We have no knowledge of the incident which you refer to. We can confirm that your correspondent was never on our list of attendees and that the dinner was by invitation only,” said the statement.

Officials have stated that Dinç didn't have an invitation, but the correspondent noted that many other journalists attending the event also did not have invitations. The AK Party has been hostile recently toward the Zaman newspaper, along with other media that is critical of the government. However, Zaman in particular is affiliated with the Hizmet movement, which the AK Party has accused of being behind massive corruption allegations raised by prosecutors against the government in late December of last year.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has claimed that the Hizmet movement has people in the judiciary and the police force and is trying to overthrow his government, although he has not been able to produce any evidence of this for the past six months. 

Dinç recounted his treatment during the event: “I arrived at the EP restaurant where the dinner was organized. A woman met me at the door, and I entered with no problems. A couple of minutes later, an official of the Union of European Turkish Democrats [UETD] talked to the same lady, and told me to leave because I hadn't been invited. I showed him my EP accreditation card. I was told only those with invitations could participate in the iftar. But my Turkish colleagues who had been following Çavuşoğlu entered without any problems, even though they did not have invitations. Nobody was asked to present an invitation at the entrance, anyway. I am the only journalist who was forced out.”

UETD officials also asked Dinç to delete any photographs he had taken of the dinner. “We know each other. We don't want any problems,” Dinç was told.

Çavuşoğlu's predecessor, Egemen Bağış, who has been accused of corruption, the AK Party's deputy chairman in charge of foreign affairs Yasin Aktay and many AK Party deputies were also in attendance at the event.

At an earlier event, Zaman's representative in Britain Kadir Uysaloğlu had been forced to leave a meeting in London attended by Turkish Finance Minister Mehmet Şimşek. Reporters Without Borders (RSF), in a statement released on Thursday, said pressure on the Zaman newspaper by the Turkish government was increasing. Johann Bihr, the head of the RSF Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said journalists affiliated with the Hizmet movement have been targets of harassment over the past few months.

Published on Cihan, 18 July 2014, Friday