AKP spokesman says Turkish PM’s call to media executive ‘natural’
'The media criticizes us. You can criticize us, but we can’t criticize you? Can’t the prime minister do it?' Hüseyin Çelik said. AA photoRuling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy head and spokesman Hüseyin Çelik has defended the prime minister, saying it was “natural” for a prime minister to call media executives when facing “insults.”
“A news ticker about the speech of an opposition leader who [accused] the prime minister of being a traitor was displayed, what can be more natural than the prime minister reacting to it?” Çelik said to private broadcaster NTV Feb. 13.
“Insults constitute a crime. When the media spreads them, isn’t that also a crime? This is what the prime minister reacted to,” he added.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had himself acknowledged that he called a media executive at the height of the Gezi protests to order the removal of content in the news, days after an alleged phone transcript of the exchange was leaked online.
In the recording that has sparked a huge outburst, Erdoğan is heard demanding private broadcaster Habertürk’s executive remove a news ticker feed referring to a statement by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli at the height of the Gezi Park protests last June.
Following the leak, the editor-in-chief of the media group’s daily, Fatih Altaylı, made public “instructions rained down on the media every day.”
But Çelik brushed aside criticism about media pressure, claiming that the opposition was calling media outlets “much more frequently” than ruling party’s officials.
“How can all these things be written if there is censorship? … The media criticizes us. You can criticize us, but we can’t criticize you? Can’t the prime minister do it?” Çelik asked.
Çelik also said the tapes, many of them revealed by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), were “nothing new.”
“Anyone who knows about YouTube has listened to them. But the moral aspect of the issue is this: It is out of the question to cover up corruption. Any hand that has been extended to public property should be broken, regardless of whose it is. But when you fight corruption, you shouldn’t do it with irregularities,” Çelik said, stressing that wiretapping without a court order could not be counted as evidence.
“Evidence obtained by illegal means is being displayed at Parliament. You cannot declare people guilty in this way,” he added.
Throughout the crisis, Erdoğan has accused the Islamic scholar Fetullah Gülen’s movement of orchestrating the graft probe in order to damage the government, denouncing a “parallel state” within the police and the judiciary.