Istanbul: Authorities in Turkey denied entry to a veteran New York Times correspondent and forced him to take a flight back to London, the newspaper said on Wednesday, in what its executive editor denounced as “an affront to freedom of the press”.
The Times said its correspondent Rod Nordland was told after arriving at Istanbul’s Ataturk airport on Tuesday that his name was on an Interior Ministry order denying him entry.
The newspaper cited one of its Turkish lawyers as saying that airport police had told a colleague that the reason was “national security”, but gave no further details.
Four senior Turkish officials contacted by Reuters declined to comment.
“The Turkish government’s action is an affront to freedom of the press and an effort to keep the world from having access to independent reporting from Turkey,” Dean Baquet, executive editor of the Times, said in a statement.
Turkey has a poor record on free speech, with at least 81 journalists imprisoned, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. More than 130 media outlets have been shut since a coup attempt in July, according to announcements from Turkish officials.
The crackdown, part of wider purges which have seen around 120,000 mostly public service workers suspended or dismissed since the coup attempt, has drawn criticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s opponents and some Western allies, who fear he is trying to silence dissent.
Most of the detained journalists and writers are accused by the authorities of spreading terrorist propaganda. Government officials say these individuals are not being held for their journalistic work, but on terrorism-related charges.
Those being held work for Turkish news organisations. But action has also been taken against foreign news media.
A Wall Street Journal correspondent, Dion Nissenbaum, was detained for what the newspaper said was allegedly violating a government ban on publication of images from an ISIS video. He was held for two and a half days in December without access to lawyers or family.
The Journal‘s editor in chief Gerard Baker said at the time that while the newspaper was relieved by his subsequent release, it was “outraged at his peremptory detention”. Turkish officials did not comment on the case.