ISTANBUL (Sputnik) — The incident took place at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on April 19, 2016, and followed on the heels of Sputnik’s website being blocked by the Turkish authorities.
“A border guard seized my passport and took me to the arriving passengers’ inspection point where I was kept for over an hour without any explanation. Then they gave me a document that said I had been banned from entering Turkey, without citing any reasons. They confiscated my press card and residence permit and suggested that I return to Russia on the next available flight,” Kerimov said.
The actions of the Turkish authorities have come in for criticism from both human rights activists and the wider press community. A spokesman for Amnesty International said the incident pointed to the aggravating situation surrounding freedom of speech in the country, stressing that any form of censorship is unacceptable. Reporters Without Borders Turkey representative Erol Önderoglu linked the government’s campaign against Sputnik to the tense relations between Moscow and Ankara. He said that the blocking of the website was the first case of a foreign media outlet becaming a target for censorship, describing it as a dangerous precedent.
The blocking of Sputnik’s website is not the first time freedom of speech and the media have come under pressure in Turkey. On March 4, the Turkish authorities conducted a crackdown against Feza Media Group and the newspaper Zaman for giving voice to opinions that ran counter to the official line. Feza Media Group was seized by the government and its premises were searched. A protest rally against the persecution of journalists was called in Istanbul but was severely suppressed by police who used tear gas to disperse demonstrators.
Sputnik (sputniknews.com) is a news agency and radio network with multimedia news hubs in dozens of countries. Sputnik broadcasts through its websites in over 30 languages, as well as analog and digital radio, mobile apps and social media. Sputnik newswires, available by subscription, run around the clock in English, Arabic, Spanish and Chinese.