European Federation of Journalists

Sweden: Turkish authorities are pushing to close investigative website Nordic Monitor

ournalists Levent Kenez (L) and Abdullah Bozkurt pose for a picture on May 24, 2022, in Stockholm, Sweden. Credits: Jonathan NACKSTRAND / AFP

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joins the Swedish Union of Journalists Svenska Journalistförbundet today to call on the Turkish government to retract its demand to close the online investigation media outlet Nordic Monitor. We believe that the Turkish government is applying pressure on its Swedish counterpart by requesting the country’s NATO delegations to close the website, whose articles are sometimes critical of the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

According to Nordic Monitor, the confidential request was revealed unintentionally by Turkish Deputy Foreign Minister Burak Akçapar on 25 October, during deliberately prolonged deliberations between the two countries, to review Ankara’s endorsement of the Nordic nation’s NATO membership bid. In order to validate its application to join NATO, Sweden has to get the approval of 30 member countries, including Turkey.

On 16 November, Akçapar told lawmakers that the “Nordic Monitor issue” was a serious matter. “Naturally, the closure of this is part of, and will continue to be part of, the negotiations we conduct with Sweden,” he added.

To justify the government’s demand, Akçapar said that him and his colleagues at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had been directly attacked by Nordic Monitor, in a series of investigative articles, based on “hundreds of Turkish government documents“. The articles revealed the extensive surveillance operations of Turkish diplomats in foreign countries. They exposed Turkey’s violations of international laws and domestic laws of home states. Envoys, when abroad, would gather critics of Erdogan and spy on Turks in exile. Akçapar himself was amongst the people identified as having taken part in a spying operation in India.

The media outlet has been the target of Turkey’s surveillance for years. It is run by two Turkish journalists in exile, Abdullah Bozkurt and Levent Kenez.

“It is completely unacceptable to demand that the media in Sweden cease their activities. The Turkish government’s attack on journalists and the media is a threat to our freedom of expression,” says Ulrika Hyllert, president of the Union of Journalists.

“The Turkish authorities are guilty here of filthy political blackmail in order to censor journalists who are simply doing their job,” added EFJ President Maja Sever. “The EFJ strongly condemns these mafia-like practices”.

Both Stockholm-based journalists, listed by the Turkish authorities as “wanted terrorists”, had already been the target of the government’s attacks in the past. Kenez had in 2020 been the target of an extradition request, issued by the Turkish government and denied by the Supreme Court of Sweden in December 2021. Bozkurt was the target of several arrest warrants, and is facing a criminal trial in Turkey on charges of insulting President Erdogan, over an article he wrote about Muhammet Emin Tokcan. They are also on the list of the Turkish intelligence agency MIT.

To avoid prison, the journalists applied for asylum in Sweden, where they have been living since 2016.

The EFJ submitted an alert about this case to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism.