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AEJ-UK condemns smear of journalist over meeting with Turkey’s opposition leader

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The UK branch of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) has condemned a smear campaign launched against Turkish journalist Amberin Zaman by pro-Turkish-government media outlets and social media users after she met with Turkey’s main opposition leader in London last week.

Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), paid a two-day visit to the UK last week where he had talks with economists, scientists and investors.

During his visit Kılıçdaroğlu also met with Zaman, the UK-based senior correspondent for the Al-Monitor news website, who shared a photo from their meeting on Twitter.

“Meeting with Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu in London and conversing with him was really encouraging. Everything will be fine,” tweeted Zaman, sparking criticism of Kılıçdaroğlu for meeting with the journalist.

In addition to pro-government media and figures, some CHP politicians also criticized their leader for meeting with Zaman, whom they called a “traitor,” a “fugitive” journalist and a supporter of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

AEJ said in a statement on Monday that Zaman has been subjected to a massive wave of shocking online abuse, harassment and death threats on social media platforms since Nov. 3, when she posted her photo with the Turkish opposition leader.

“Turkish pro-government newspapers and other influential media have spread malicious misinformation, falsely calling her a supporter of terrorism, inciting popular hostility. The widespread dissemination of death threats and explicit warnings of rape and sexual violence, accompanied by lurid and unfounded attacks on her reputation, raise acute fears for the journalist’s personal safety.”

AEJ said Zaman is a member of the UK section of the AEJ, an independent professional network of journalists who report on European and international affairs.

“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 association.

Zaman has been a columnist for Al-Monitor for the past five years, reporting on the politics of Turkey, Iraq and Syria and writing the daily Briefly Turkey newsletter. Prior to Al-Monitor, she covered Turkey, the Kurds and conflicts in the region for The Washington Post, The Daily Telegraph, the Los Angeles Times and Voice of America. She served as The Economist’s Turkey correspondent between 1999 and 2016 and has worked as a columnist for several Turkish language outlets.

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