Yesterday at the Brookings Institute in Washington, DC where Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was scheduled to give a speech, his security guards harassed and physically assaulted journalists trying to cover the event. They also forcibly attempted to remove several journalists from inside, although they were on the guest list. The Brookings staff prevented them from ejecting the journalists.
Adem Yavuz Arslan, Washington Correspondent of Turkey’s Ozgür Düşünce Daily newspaper, was kicked out of the building while checking in. A senior Brookings official eventually escorted Arslan back in but Brookings had to assign a security guard to the seat next to him since Turkish security guards continued to “verbally harass, insult and threaten” him.
“Erdogan’s guards are not committing these barbaric acts against independent media on their own, Arslan told Reporters Without Borders (RSF). “I’m pretty confident they have their orders.”
Several other journalists were involved in the tussle with Turkish security guards. Another Turkish journalist, Emre Uslu, told AP he was kicked in the leg outside the event by Erdogan’s bodyguards and was prevented from attending the speech. An American reporter attempting to film the harassment received a kick in the chest, according to AFP.
“RSF condemns the Turkish security guards’ unacceptable behavior towards journalists covering this important event in Washington, DC,” said Delphine Halgand, RSF’s US Director. “Not only is Erdogan abusing freedom of the press on a regular basis in his own country, but now his security team believes they can obstruct freedom of the press in the United States. ”
“Turkey’s leader and his security team are guests in the United States,” declared Thomas Burr, president of the National Press Club, in a statement issued yesterday. “Erdogan doesn’t get to export such abuse.”
This is not the first time Erdogan’s security team has used these harsh methods against journalists covering an Erdogan visit to the US. In September 2014, Erdogan’s bodyguards attacked two Turkish journalists in New York during a visit between the Turkish leader and United States Vice President Joe Biden. One of the reporters was Adem Yavuz Arslan, the very same journalist attacked yesterday. Arslan said the president’s nephew, Ali Erdogan, who was a member of his security detail, evicted him from the hotel at the behest of one of the president’s advisers. Once he was on the street, two other advisers, Senol Kazanci and Aydin Ünal, threatened him. “Your existence is a crime,” one of them said. Two unidentified men then physically attacked Arslan in the street in front of the hotel.
Turkey is ranked 149th out of 180 countries in RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index.