NEW YORK – In response to news reports that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson to deport exiled journalist Bülent Keneş back to Turkey on Tuesday, the Committee to Protect Journalists issued the following statement, warning Sweden to not to set a dangerous precedent by endangering Keneş’ safety:
“Under no circumstances can Sweden fulfill Turkey’s demand to deport exiled Turkish journalist Bülent Keneş and continue calling itself a democratic nation governed by the rule of law. Swedish officials should not use exiled journalists as bargaining chips in their dealings with Turkey,” said CPJ Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator Gulnoza Said. “Sweden must not give in to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s blackmail and set a precedent that would endanger exiled Turkish journalists worldwide.”
Erdoğan met with Kristersson in Ankara, Turkey’s capital, on Tuesday and told him that the deportation of Keneş, whom he called a terrorist, is “very important” to Turkey, reports said. In an interview with U.S. news site Al-Monitor, Keneş, former chief editor of the shuttered English-language Turkish daily newspaper Today’s Zaman, denied Erdoğan’s claims.
Erdoğan asked the Swedish prime minister to meet Turkey’s security concerns in order for the country to approve Sweden’s membership bid to join NATO, Al-Monitor said. In October, pro-government Turkish media exposed the personal information of Keneş and other exiled Turkish journalists. Keneş was arrested by Turkish authorities in 2015.
CPJ emailed the Turkish president’s office for comment but did not immediately receive any response.