The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Swedish Union of Journalists have released a joint statement criticizing Turkey for its attempts to have Nordic Monitor, a news website critical of the Turkish government, closed as part of its NATO membership negotiations with Sweden.
“We believe that the Turkish government is applying pressure on its Swedish counterpart by requesting the country’s NATO delegations to close the website, whose articles are sometimes critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,” the statement said.
EFJ President Maja Sever accused the Turkish authorities of “filthy political blackmail” in order to censor journalists who are simply doing their jobs. “The EFJ strongly condemns these mafia-like practices.”
Turkey’s diplomatic efforts towards the closure of Nordic Monitor were revealed at a meeting of parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee on Nov. 16, during which Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Burak Akçapar told MPs that the closure of the website was an integral part of the negotiations with Sweden.
Nordic Monitor is run by exiled journalists Abdullah Bozkurt and Levent Kenez. It’s known for investigative reports on the Turkish government’s ties to radical jihadist networks and its efforts at weaponizing the country’s diplomatic missions to harass and intimidate critics living abroad.
Turkey has obstructed Sweden’s NATO membership on the grounds that the Scandinavian country has failed to cooperate with Ankara in the fight against terrorism.
The negotiations aimed at removing the diplomatic roadblock involved Ankara’s demands for the extradition of people with links to the faith-based Gülen movement or Kurds accused of being affiliated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
The PKK is an armed insurgent group designated as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community.
Inspired by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, the Gülen movement has been in the crosshairs of the Turkish government since a 2013 graft probe that implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following an abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
As part of the NATO negotiations with Sweden, Turkey has requested the extradition of dozens of people accused of Gülen links, including several exiled journalists based in the Nordic country.
On one occasion President Erdoğan during a meeting with the Swedish prime minister openly called journalist Bülent Keneş a “terrorist,” stating that his extradition was of the utmost importance.