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On 30 May I contacted a journalist on the Turkish newspaper Zaman offering a comment on the decision of the Financial Times to throw out the paper’s journalist from reporting a speech being given in the paper’s London office by Turkey’s finance minster Mehmet Şimşek on Thursday 29 May. It is not the first time that the paper, a major high circulation publication in Turkey, has been under attack by the Turkish authorities as the article below from Zaman tells us.

“The Turkish government has been strongly criticized by media circles after Zaman daily UK representative Kadir Uysaloğlu was asked to leave when Turkey’s finance minister commenced a speech at the Financial Times’ head office in London on Thursday.

“Uysaloğlu said that only representatives of the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA) were given permission by FT to attend Mehmet Şimşek’s speech. He added that FT officials later allowed him to join the program, but shortly after Şimşek started his speech, he was asked to leave the room.

“Speaking to the Cihan news agency after the incident, Uysaloğlu stated that FT official Wendy Wong told him that Turkish Finance Ministry officials had requested that he leave the room.

“Pınar Türenç, president of the Turkish Press Council, lambasted officials for the incident and said the media had not experienced such restrictions at the past, adding that there can be no freedom in a country that does not have freedom of the press.

“‘It is not possible to accept a journalist, who holds a press card and represents a media outlet in another country, being kicked out during a Turkish minister’s speech. Recently there have been attempts to restrict critical media in such meetings or speeches. I think this is not acceptable in terms of freedom of the press,’ she added.

“President of the Media Ethics Council (MEK) Halit Esendir, also expressed his frustration regarding the incident involving Usaloğlu. Recalling that Şimşek was giving a speech about investment in Turkey, Esendir said the incident is clear violation of basic freedom of the press and people’s right to be informed. ‘I am hoping that we won’t experience such an incident again and I urge authorities to respect freedom of the press,’ he added.

“Also in April, journalist Tuğba Mezararkalı was told by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to change her job and leave the Zaman daily during a press conference. Prime Minister Erdoğan had told the correspondent from the Zaman daily, which he associates with the so-called ‘parallel state,’ to leave her job while speaking to journalists at İstanbul Atatürk Airport before catching a flight to Azerbaijan.

“This was not the first time Erdoğan had targeted Zaman reporters asking him questions on various occasions.

“On Feb. 3, Erdoğan declared Zaman reporter Derviş Genç, who asked the prime minister a question on corruption allegations after a major graft investigation became public on Dec. 17 of last year, a speaker for the ‘parallel state’ during a press conference held at the same airport before a visit to Germany.

“Another Zaman reporter, Ahmet Dönmez, was exposed to the same treatment during a joint press conference held by Erdoğan with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Feb. 11. Becoming angry with Dönmez’s questions, Erdoğan used insults against the Zaman reporter.”

Today’s Zaman 31 May 2014