Erdogan cancels former NYT journalist’s honorary citizenship over critical article

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cancelled honorary citizenship of former New York Times journalist Stephen Kinzer over a critical article he penned about the president few months ago, Today’s Zaman reports. 

Kinzer, who has been Istanbul bureau chief for the New York Times between 1996 and 2000, arrived in southern Turkish province of Gaziantep on Tuesday to be awarded in recognition of his NY Times reporting that resulted in saving Roman mosaics. He said his reporting has since brought millions of tourists to the city that sits on the border with Syria.

Up until the morning of May 26, there was no sign that the ceremony would not be held. Kinzer noted that “a lavish ceremony has been planned, the mosaic museum has been set for a banquet, tickets have been printed, a professional interpreter from Ankara has been engaged” as part of the preparation for this significant event.

His hosts, however, sat him down and told him that the ceremony and his honorary citizenship have been cancelled by “personal order of President Erdogan.”

He told Today’s Zaman from Gaziantep that one of Erdogan’s aide passed his article he wrote on January 4 for Boston Globe that also included a critical paragraph about Erdoğan to Gaziantep mayor Fatma Şahin, who he believes is in Paris at the moment.

In his January 4 article for Boston Globe, Kinzer wrote that Erdogan sacrificed much of his country’s strategic power in the past year. He said “with amazing suddenness [Turkey] has become the ally from hell.”

“By wrecking Turkey’s carefully constructed relations with Egypt, Israel, and Syria, Erdogan has weakened his country and helped destabilize the Middle East,” Kinzer wrote, adding that once seen as a skilled modernizer, he now sits in a 1,000-room palace denouncing the European Union, decreeing the arrest of journalists, and ranting against short skirts and birth control.

Kinzer said he has no idea why they waited so long and allowed preparations for the ceremony to proceed with every detail and cancelled at the last minute. Kinzer, who is the author of eight books, added that his Boston Globe article was presented as an explanation why his honorary citizenship was cancelled and why the ceremony should not be held. He said there might be other complaints about him, but the article is the only complaint he knows of.

According to Kinzer, Gaziantep mayor later received a fax saying that he has been identified as “an enemy of our government and our country.”

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