The Britain-based Association of European Journalists (AEJ) condemned the threats and abuse faced by Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman over a photograph shared on social media that showed her with Turkey’s main opposition leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.
Zaman posted the image of herself and Kılıçdaroğlu last week, saying it had been “very encouraging” to talk to the Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader during his visit to London.
— Amberin Zaman (@amberinzaman) November 3, 2022
Following the post, the journalist faced a barrage of abuse, insults and even death threats online.
And the abuse she faced came not only from internet trolls, but also from politicians and pro-government newspapers.
One of these newspapers, the right-wing Islamist daily Yeni Akit, called Zaman an “embedded journalist” and “traitor” and accused her husband, US Deputy Assistant Director for Iraq Joseph S. Pennington, of working for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
Takvim, another pro-government newspaper, called Zaman a “terror-supporter” for her meeting with the main opposition leader.
Mehmet Ali Çelebi, the deputy for İzmir who left the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in 2021 and joined the ruling Justice Development Party (AKP) this year, shared a tweet calling Zaman a “PKK-Öcalan lover” and conspirator against Turkey.
Çelebi was referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its leader, Abdullah Öcalan. The Turkish state defines the PKK as a terrorist organisation due to its struggle for Kurdish self-rule, and public figures who are involved in or sympathetic to the Kurdish political movement are routinely accused of links to the group.“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,” said the AEJ in its statement.
“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,” added the association.
In the statement AEJ-UK also called on British authorities to investigate those making threats and bring them to justice.
The Coalition for Women in Journalism also shared a tweet condemning the smear campaign, death and rape threats against Zaman.
#Turkey: @AlMonitor correspondent @amberinzaman has been targeted with a major online trolling campaign following her interview with Turkey’s opposition party leader. #CFWIJ condemns the vicious smear campaign, death & rape threats against her and demands accountability. pic.twitter.com/6huM3xtNlT
— #WomenInJournalism (@CFWIJ) November 7, 2022
Zaman, whose work has appeared in outlets including the Washington Post and the Economist, was based in Turkey for several years, but since 2016 she has lived and worked outside the country.