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Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, who has been in his post since 1994, is a prolific Twitter user. A number of his tweets had also previously sparked controversy.

Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek, who has been in his post since 1994, is a prolific Twitter user. A number of his tweets had also previously sparked controversy.

The BBC Global News director, Peter Horrocks has issued a statement in response to the Twitter campaign launched by Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek against the experienced BBC Turkish service journalist Selin Girit, expressing the institution's concerns over the recent discourse.

"The BBC is very concerned by the continued campaign of the Turkish authorities to discredit the BBC and intimidate its journalists," the statement by the BBC Press office said.

The statement confirmed that "a large number of threatening messages" had been sent to Girit, and called the targeting of the BBC reporter "unacceptable."

Gökçek launched June 23 a defamation campaign over Girit's reporting via the social media network on a forum held by protesters at a small park in Istanbul.

Row over hashtags

Gökçek, one of the ruling Justice and Development Party's (AKP) most controversial figures who has been in his post for almost 20 years, accused Girit of being an "English agent" and of engaging in "treachery to her nation." He urged his followers to condemn her by sending tweets with the hashtag #ingiltereadınaajanlıkyapmaselingirit ("Don't be an agent on behalf of England Selin Girit"). 

"I want that everyone who loves their country to make the hashtag a trending topic. That way, our reaction will be heard abroad," the Ankara mayor said via Twitter.

Girit had earlier tweeted from Yoğurtçu Park in Istanbul's Moda neighborhood, where people had gathered after the police's tough evacuation of Taksim Gezi Park last weekend. "A proposition from the forum at Yoğurtçu Park: Let's not be the standing man, but the man that stops. Let's stop the economy. Don't consume for six month. They will listen," she had tweeted, prompting Gökçek to lash out at her with conspiracy theories.

"They want to destroy our economy with an agent rented in England, inside Turkey. They are dreaming of Turkey becoming 'Europe's sick man' again. This is the concrete evidence," he wrote. He also repeatedly expressed his satisfaction as his hashtag moved upward through Turkey's most popular trending topics.

Massive indignation and counter-campaign

However, Gökçek's social media campaign caused huge indignation, and support poured in for the BBC journalist in response, with her supporters using the hashtag #selingiritgazetecidir ("Selin Girit is a journalist") and #provokatörmelihgökçek ("Melih Gökçek is a provocator").

The counter-campaign evidently infuriated Gökçek, as he later tweeted that the latter hashtag, which quickly rose to become the number one trending topic in Turkey, was top of the list "on the BBC's orders." He then vowed to sue every user who tweeted with the hashtag, a threat that failed to discourage users from continuing to use it. Gökçek also shared his satisfaction as website news portals covered the affair, sharing all published reports on his account.

Selin Girit has only reacted by tweeting herself that she had been targeted by the Ankara mayor for reporting, and issued an appeal for freedom of the press.

June/23/2013

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READER COMMENTS

Notice on comments

charles sant

11/19/2013 12:25:52 AM

....sorry she in not a Penguin, unlike most others

Nadiri Başaran

6/24/2013 9:47:36 PM

My point is that democrats believe that journalists should not be jailed whatever they say or do, it's the same in all 'democratic' countries.

Tekion Particle

6/24/2013 6:29:22 PM

This guy is a typical AKP thug who is out to intimidate anyone who tells the truth instead of AKP lies.

Vargen Vargen

6/24/2013 6:22:54 PM

A couple of years ago the water reservoirs in Ankara were drying out since they had not invested and built up sufficient capacity and the summer was unusually warm (it is problematic because then the water gets really warm and you get a lot of bacterias in the water). The mayor is clearly reponcible for the water. But he blamed out side forces again. These outside forces are not only evil, they are so powerful that they can creat more sun. Because it could NOT be that he had not done his job.

K M

6/24/2013 5:37:32 PM

@ Turk Oz: the irony is delicious: Gokcek graduated from the Journalism School at Gazi U in Ankara. Can't imagine what the curriculum was.

Necati

6/24/2013 4:34:44 PM

There should be a gap between being anti-AKP and a high treason.

Vargen Vargen

6/24/2013 4:28:25 PM

Ottoman Reactionary. Why do you live in Europe if it is soo bad there? Why do you not want to live with us Turks in Turkey instead?

O D

6/24/2013 4:16:14 PM

Gokcek is another Erdogan copycat. The old saying 'a fish rots from the head down' seems very appropriate here.

Scandi Navian

6/24/2013 4:10:35 PM

Ottoman Reactionary: Yes; there are many cases of racism in Europe. However; research shows that Turkey is the country in Europe which citizens on average are most hostile to foreigners. Only the French come close. However (fortunately one can say), Turks tend to keep their bias private. But with the current "outspoken" PM, this may well change in Turkey as well (i.e. racism can be socially acceptable). However, I'm hopeful that the far majority of Turks do not share the PM's view.

mistique holland

6/24/2013 4:09:12 PM

Like those Birts are all so innocent. They listen in on all conversations of people and have back room conversations with the USA...But the Colonists are all innocent. Look at whom they support....That says it all frankly , one colonist to another...@Ottoman, you are for the 100% right. Just look at the reaction of Dutch Turk, not much Turk anymore, more Dutch PVV, if you know what I mean. Supporting to bring their own country down.
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