WASHINGTON, DC – National Press Club leaders expressed alarm about reports that security personnel guarding Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had physically abused journalists in Washington, DC on Thursday.
According to published news reports and multiple tweets from eyewitnesses, Erdogan’s security team manhandled reporters at the Brookings Institution ahead of a speech by Erdogan.
The Turkish leader’s bodyguards sought to physically remove one journalist from the event, kicked another and threw a third, a woman, to the sidewalk, the reports said. Smart phone footage posted on Twitter appeared to corroborate some of the allegations of violence.
“Turkey’s leader and his security team are guests in the United States,” said Thomas Burr, the National Press Club president. “They have no right to lay their hands on reporters or protesters or anyone else for that matter, when the people they were apparently roughing up seemed to be merely doing their jobs or exercising the rights they have in this country.
“We have increasingly seen disrespect for basic human rights and press freedom in Turkey,” Burr added. “Erdogan doesn’t get to export such abuse.”
Burr also commended Brookings Institution personnel for resisting efforts by Erdogan’s bodyguards to rough up the press at Thursday’s event.
Independent observers have documented a deterioration of press freedom in Turkey as Erdogan has become more and more authoritarian. Turkey is among the world’s top jailers of journalists. Reporters there have also been increasingly subject to harassment, intimidation and physical attack.
The National Press Club, founded in 1908 and based in Washington, D.C., is the world’s leading professional organization for journalists. Through its Press Freedom Committee, the club speaks out for press freedom and transparency worldwide.