US journalist’s Honorary Citizenship ‘canceled by mayor’

ffffThe mayor of a southern Turkish province has denied claims that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan canceled American journalist Steven Kinzer’s honorary citizenship over a recent critical article, while admitting that she herself made the decision for the same reason.

“The decision to revoke the honorary citizenship of a foreign journalist was made totally by our own initiative. The reason was that the journalist directed unfair accusations at our esteemed president,” Gaziantep Mayor Fatma Şahin said in a series of tweets on May 28.

In his article published by the Boston Globe on May 27, former New York Times journalist Kinzer wrote that he had come to Gaziantep to be given an honorary citizenship. However, the mayor and city council canceled the event after Erdoğan’s office sent a fax describing him as “an enemy of our government and our country” due to his recent critical article.

Kinzer, who was to be honored in recognition of his reporting years ago that led to the saving of exquisite Roman mosaics about to be lost to flooding in Gaziantep, claimed that another of his columns from Jan. 4 was attached to the fax as evidence that he was an “enemy” of Turkey.

“It is unimaginable that we can present the honorary citizenship of our city, which has the title of ‘Gazi’ [war hero] in its name, to a person who directed baseless accusations to our president, whoever he is,” Mayor Şahin also said in another tweet on May 28.

In February 1921, the Turkish parliament honored the city of Antep by adding the title of “Gazi” to its name to commemorate its resistance to the French siege during the Franco-Turkish War, part of the Turkish War of Independence. The name was officially adopted in 1928 as Gaziantep.

As the June 7 general elections approach, Erdoğan has toughened his rhetoric against critical voices in the Turkish media, as well international outlets. Most recently, he slammed the New York Times during rallies on May 25 and May 26, over its May 22 editorial that criticized his “long history of intimidating and co-opting the Turkish media.