“It was as if I were in a mafia film”

A Flemish journalist that did work experience at the Belgian offices of the Turkish opposition newspaper Zaman was approached by an advisor to the Erdogan regime. The advisor asked Anne Van Roste to provide him with a list of Belgian subscribers to the Zaman newspaper that is pro the exiled opposition leader Fethullah Gülen.

Speaking in an interview with VRT Radio 1’s news and current affairs programme ‘De wereld vandaag’ Anne Van Roste said “I could hardly believe it. It was as if I was in a mafia film”.

"I had chosen the AKP (the Turkish leader Erdogan’s party) as the subject form my dissertation. I was to interview a number of prominent figures from the party and that set the ball rolling”, Anne Van Roste said.

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Anne Van Roste came into contact with an advisor to the Turkish state. After a number of meetings he asked her to provide him with a list the Belgian subscribers to the Zaman newspaper. This was before the attempted coup in Turkey on 15 July. President Erdogan blames Mr Glen and his supporters for the coup attempt.

"He never told me why he asked for the list. However, he did say that he wanted me to bring the list to Ankara on 16 July. I was shown photographs of with my name on them. If I wanted to I could go and work or study in Turkey”.

"In retrospect it is strange that he wanted the list the day after the coup attempt. At a certain moment he appeared desperate. He sent me a Whatsapp message in which he said that it would make him happy if I were to take the list to Ankara”, Anne Van Roste added.

"I wanted to know how far he would go"

"Out of interest I kept him hanging on for a long time. I wanted to know whether he really was an adviser to the Turkish state. I wanted to see how far he would go. I was still working on my dissertation and was curious as to whether he meant it.”

"Of course college doesn’t give any instruction on what to do in such a situation. After a while I began asking myself whether I had done anything wrong. Quite late on, at the end of June, I informed my Editor-in-Chief at Zaman”.

The publication of the Belgian edition of Zaman was been suspended last week. The paper’s Board made the decision “for safety reasons”