AEJ-UK condemns social media threats and smears by Turkish public figures against journalist Amberin Zaman

Since last Thursday (3 November) the UK-based senior correspondent for the Al-Monitor news website, Amberin Zaman, has been subjected to a massive wave of shocking online abuse, harassment and death threats on social media platforms.

Turkish pro-government newspapers and other influential media have spread malicious misinformation, falsely calling her a supporter of terrorism, inciting popular hostility. The widespread dissemination of death threats and explicit warnings of rape and sexual violence, accompanied by lurid and unfounded attacks on her reputation, raise acute fears for the journalist’s personal safety.

Amberin is a member of the UK Section of the Association of European Journalists, an independent professional network of journalists who report on European and international affairs. We utterly condemn the appalling threats made against our colleague by Turkish public figures and pro-government media in the attempt to intimidate her into silence, and the countless defamatory and malicious attempts to sully the reputation of a respected international journalist

The barrage of attacks started within hours of Amberin posting a photograph on Twitter of herself with Turkey’s visiting opposition party leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, commenting that she was “heartened” by her brief meeting with him. Among those responsible for the torrent of false accusations and threatening tweets in response to her Twitter post is a member of the National Assembly of the governing Justice and Development party, Mehmet Ali Celebi  https://twitter.com/celebimehmeta/status/1588818532854566913 .

In the past, Amberin Zaman worked for several years in Turkey for media including The Washington Post and The Economist but since 2016 she has lived and worked outside Turkey. She had long been the target of defamatory and malicious smear campaigns and vicious personal threats from Turkish government figures and their followers, including an army of trolls who have sought to brand her as a terrorist and a heretic from Islam. 

It is an integral and necessary part of Amberin’s job to engage actively with her followers and readers through social media. Like many other female journalists she has been especially and disgustingly targeted with online threats and abuse.

The ferocity of this latest co-ordinated attack sends a chill through all independent journalists. It must be publicly condemned by the UK authorities and other European governments. Elected politicians and other office-holders in Turkey who have identified themselves should be investigated and brought to justice for hate crimes and making threats to harm or kill.