President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took his feverish anti-media frenzy into a new level, shrugging off international criticism over the clampdown on media freedom and imprisonment of press members, calling the jailed journalists “thieves, child abusers, and terrorists.”
Speaking at a meeting with members of Anadolu Publishers Association in Presidential Palace on Wednesday, President Erdogan unleashed a new firestorm of tirades against those who are critical of his heavy-handed dealing with media. He saved most of his fires for the European Union and international rights groups promoting freedom of the press and monitoring the crackdown on journalists.
The recurrent theme in his latest torrent of fire-and-brimstone remarks was the state of imprisoned journalists in Turkey. The president unwaveringly clung to a conviction that there was no journalist jailed for the conduct of journalism.
“When we told them to give us the list of journalists [who were jailed], we look at the names … Among them, there are murderers and thieves, child abusers and defrauders. Only journalist is non-existent in that list,” Mr. Erdogan said.
“We recently received a new list in which there was 149 jailed [names]. When our friends checked the list, 144 of them are in jail for terrorism crimes, and 4 for petty crimes.”
The Turkish president even claimed that one of the journalists was jailed for bringing bomb device from northern Iraq. Another journalist was imprisoned after “launching an armed attack at a police vehicle, killing 2 policemen and wounding 3.”
He weaved through the history of the tormented issue that earned Turkey an upswell of criticism in the West, repeating Ankara’s long-held narrative that portrays journalists as dangerous terrorists.
“We will never concede concessions to those who act as militants of terrorist organizations and agents for foreign [intelligence] agencies under the guise of media membership,” President Erdogan said in indignation.
The target of his exploding fury was Germany. Ankara and Berlin locked in a simmering dispute over the arrest of Turkish-German journalist Deniz Yucel whom Mr. Erdogan depicts as a terrorist and a foreign agent working for German interests in Turkey.
The highly political charges produced a row with Germany, with no signs of subsiding after President Erdogan’s daily bashing against its NATO ally.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) describes Turkey is an open prison for journalists, while many other respected international organizations paint a dark picture in similar disheartening terms, calling Turkey as a dangerous place for media members.
Istanbul-based Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) says 155 journalists and media workers languish in prisons for conducting journalism.
After Mr. Erdogan’s accusatory language against the jailed journalists in Turkey, wife of a well-known columnist unloaded her dismay on social media upon such a depiction.
“After Erdogan’s remarks about journalists in prison, our son Erdem burst into tears. I’m waiting for an answer. What does this mean?,” Nazire Kalkan Gursel, wife of Cumhuriyet columnist Kadri Gursel who is being held in prison, wrote on Twitter, addressing to the president in a display of disappointment and rage over the portrayal of imprisoned journalists in such devilish terms.
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