A pro-government daily has published a secretly taken photo of an investigative Turkish journalist living in exile in Sweden and revealed his home address on its front page, in the latest episode of a manhunt being carried out for Turkish journalists who have been forced to flee Turkey and reside overseas.
The Sabah daily, owned by the Turkuvaz Media Group, published the photo of journalist Abdullah Bozkurt, former Ankara representative of the now closed Today’s Zaman daily and founder of the Nordic Research Monitoring Network, which exposes the Turkish government’s relations with radical and extremist groups, unlawful activities of the Turkish intelligence service and government corruption.
In the secretly taken photo, Bozkurt is seen waiting at a bus stop with a shopping bag in his hand. Sabah also published his home address in addition to a picture of the building where he resides with his family.
Similar to investigative and exiled journalist Cevheri Güven, the secretly taken pictures of whom were published by the Sabah daily on its front page last month along with the name of his neighborhood, Bozkurt believes Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) has been engaged in a manhunt for him.
“Turkish intelligence MIT stepped up the campaign of intimidation and harassment targeting investigative journalists abroad. The agency leaked surveillance photos of me and my house in #Sweden to regime mouthpiece Sabah daily today. I will not be cowed into silence,” he tweeted.
The journalist recalled that he was the subject of an attack in front of his house in 2020 in which he sustained injuries.
“In 2020, I was attacked by three men who were waiting for me right in front of my house in Stockholm. They punched and kicked while I was on the ground. I had to move out to a new location for a safety of myself and my family,” he said.
Bozkurt said the Turkish government is trying to intimidate all the Turkish journalists who are reporting from exile by making him a target but vowed that he will not bow to their pressure.
“Today, by publishing secretly taken photos and revealing location of my home, #Erdogan & his thugs sent yet another chilling message not just for me but for all journalists who still cover Turkey from the exile under difficult circumstances. I refuse to be intimidated. #BringItOn,” he tweeted.
In Sabah’s report, written by news coordinator Abdurrahman Şimşek, who also took the photos of Güven in Germany, Bozkurt is presented as the mastermind of the assassination of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrei Karlov in 2016 based on the testimony of an informant who was arrested due to his links to the Gülen movement.
Karlov was shot dead by an off-duty policeman while speaking at an Ankara exhibit opening in December 2016. The gunman, Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, was killed by police at the scene.
Altıntaş had shouted slogans condemning Russia’s offensive in Aleppo as well as a war chant used by a jihadist group in Syria.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the pro-government media were quick to lay the blame on the Gülen movement, which is also accused by them of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016.
They insisted on the narrative despite the fact that many suspects denied having any links to the movement but admitted to other Islamic affiliations.
The Gülen movement and cleric Fethullah Gülen, who inspired it, deny any involvement in the murder or the abortive putsch.
The Today’s Zaman newspaper, where Bozkurt used to work, was among the dozens of media outlets closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup due to their links to the Gülen movement or other groups deemed terrorist organizations by Turkey.
Bozkurt’s name was associated with Karlov’s murder also due to an article he wrote for Turkish Minute several days before the murder of the Russian ambassador, warning of possible attacks on foreign missions in Turkey.
“The combination of both the deliberately ratcheted-up, vitriolic anti-Western diatribe by Turkey’s Islamist rulers and a surge in xenophobic incidents on the ground suggests that the storming of a foreign embassy in Ankara or consulate compound in Istanbul by thugs to send a chilling message to allies and feed the public paranoia is quite likely,” Bozkurt warned in his article at the time.
“Perhaps a frustrated Erdoğan, isolated regionally and internationally, believes his hawkish messages are not getting through to the West despite his public bashing and bullying of the EU and the US. He may be desperate to try a new act, such as briefly storming the building of a foreign diplomatic mission before ordering a halt to pretend he is the savior of the day, or even going to extremes by marching his armed militias and thugs for an embassy takeover with violent clashes. This would be another turning point in Turkey’s relations with the West, one that could help Erdoğan break the emotional tie much of the Turkish population feels for the Western alliance.”
Bozkurt fled Turkey following the coup attempt like thousands of other people to avoid the government’s post-coup crackdown as a part of which thousands of people have been sent to jail on bogus terrorism or coup charges.
Journalists who fled Turkey following the coup attempt such as Bozkurt and Güven have established their own news outlets and have become the major source of news for some Turks in a country where 90 percent of the national media is owned by pro-government businessmen who toe the official line, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
Meanwhile, Bozkurt is reportedly among the journalists and political dissidents whose extradition Turkey is seeking from Sweden and Finland. Turkey is threatening to torpedo Sweden and Finland’s attempts to join Western defense alliance NATO unless these countries extradite dozens of people Ankara accuses of “terrorism.”