International and local journalist organizations and groups are standing in solidarity with exiled Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt and have called for a thorough and swift investigation into a violent attack on Bozkurt near his home in Stockholm.
Swedish-based journalist Bozkurt was attacked near his home in Stockholm on September 24. Shortly after he left his apartment, he was attacked by three men who knocked him to the ground, punched him and then fled the area. Bozkurt sustained injuries to his face, head, arms and legs and was treated in an emergency ward.
Ulrika Hyllert, president of the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet), a professional organization promoting press freedom and advocating the rights of journalists in Sweden, urged the police to bring those responsible to justice, saying: “ Bozkurt was the victim of a serious crime. It is important that it be properly investigated by the police and that those responsible be brought to justice.”
“Swedish authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the attack on Turkish journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, and hold those responsible to account,” the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent and nonprofit organization promoting press freedom worldwide, said in a statement on Wednesday.
Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, urged Swedish authorities to “find the perpetrators and those who ordered the attack, and bring them to justice,” adding that “Swedish authorities must maximize their efforts to prevent such attacks and ensure that Bozkurt and other exiled journalists can work without fearing that their lives are at risk.”
Similarly, the International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ/EFJ), which represents more than 600.000 journalists in 146 countries, released a statement calling for a thorough investigation and stressing that the IFJ/EFJ stands in solidarity with Bozkurt. “Being forced into exile to Sweden, Abdullah Bozkurt continued to do his job as an independent journalist. It is crucial to investigate thoroughly how his journalistic activity is related to the incident, how the attack was planned, and to bring those responsible to court,” IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), a non-profit organization monitoring violations against journalists and engaging diverse stakeholders across Europe, also offered its support and solidarity to Bozkurt.
Details and the location of the incident was shared by Mapping Media Freedom, an organization identifying limitations, threats and violations faced by media workers in 43 countries, in a press release.
Bozkurt told CPJ that he believes the attackers were the same three unidentified men who, the day before the attack, had stood in the street outside his home and shouted for him to come outside because they “wanted to talk.” He refused to meet them and filmed a video of the men. The footage was handed over to the police by Bozkurt.
In an email to CPJ, a Swedish police representative said an investigation into the attack was ongoing and that details could not be released until charges were filed against the suspected perpetrators.
“Of course I was shaken by this incident, and my heart breaks when I see how my children have taken in what has happened. But I have worked as a journalist for more than 20 years and I do not intend to give in to pressure or violence. I cannot stop writing because if I do, they will win. They also see that this method works and will move on to the next journalist. I have to hold the line,” Bozkurt told the Swedish Journalisten news website.
Bozkurt and his team of journalists in Sweden run the Nordic Monitor news website, which provides exclusive and critical coverage on Turkey and exposes the clandestine activities of Turkish government agencies. Bozkurt has been living in Sweden under political asylum protection since 2016, when the Turkish government led by authoritarian leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched an unprecedented crackdown on independent and critical media, jailing hundreds of journalists and media workers and shutting down nearly 200 media outlets.
Until March 5, 2016 Bozkurt was head of the Ankara bureau of Today’s Zaman, the English edition of the Zaman daily, when the paper was taken over by the Turkish government and its headquarters were stormed by the police. Zaman was Turkey’s largest newspaper with a daily circulation of some 1 million. Today, Bozkurt is facing multiple arrest warrants on a series of fabricated charges ranging from terrorism to defamation of Erdoğan through his critical writing.
Bozkurt has regularly been receiving threats online, mostly from Turkey. In one case, Cem Küçük, a Turkish government propagandist, openly called during a TV program for Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) to assassinate Bozkurt. He said his home address in Stockholm was known by Turkish authorities and demanded the “extermination” of the journalist.