May 22, 2014


Vienna, 22/05/2014

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is worried about the developments in Turkey.

Hasnain Kazim, an Istanbul-based correspondent for Germany’s Der Spiegelmagazine, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) yesterday in an email that he felt forced to leave Turkey for his own safety after he received thousands of threats for an article he wrote on the disaster, in which 301 miners died.

Kazim, who told AFP he was “just spending a few days somewhere else to be on the safe side”, said that “hundreds” of the messages via Twitter and Facebook threatened him with death. The threats came after he quoted a miner from Soma who said he wanted to tell Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to “Go to hell”.

The journalist told AFP that “trolls” he believed were linked to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) “did not see or did not want to see that this was a quote but considered me and Der Spiegel to have said that”.

BBC Turkish reporter Rengin Arslan was similarly threatened in social media after Erdogan on Tuesday accused her of staging a video in which relatives of disaster victims criticised the prime minister, the International Business Times reported. Two veiled women in a Soma cemetery told Arslan in a 59-second clip that they regretted voting for Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and that local residents voted for the party “out of fear” and had been bribed to do so.

Erdogan, without mentioning BBC Turkish by name, told an AKP meeting that the women were actors that Arslan hired. The network, however, rejected that criticism as “unfounded” and stood by the journalist’s report.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), said they were disturbed by the rhetoric and by the number and degree of threats against journalists.

“Tensions are already running high following the worst mining disaster in Turkish history,” IPI Senior Press Freedom Adviser Steven M. Ellis said. “In this atmosphere, authorities have a special responsibility to avoid dangerous comments that could lead supporters to believe that harassment or intimidation of journalists is in any way justified. We urge the prime minister to show his commitment to press freedom by refraining from such rhetoric and by stating clearly that threats of violence against journalists will not be tolerated.”