IPI supports Hürriyet over Erdoğan’s words
DHA photoMembers of the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Executive Board called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to “immediately halt a disingenuous campaign of vilification against the Doğan Media Group and its daily newspaper Hürriyet” that has raged this week, the IPI said in a statement on May 22.
The president and his supporters have slammed the group and Hürriyet over the daily’s May 16 online report on the death sentence handed to deposed former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi, saying the article’s headline on the daily’s website represented a death threat against Erdoğan. The headline at issue read: “The world is shocked! Death sentence for president who received 52 percent of the vote.”
Erdoğan, who was himself elected president with 52 percent of the vote, made the claim in public speeches earlier this week. However, pro-government Turkish daily Sabah noted that on the same day the headline appeared, Erdoğan specifically pointed to Morsi’s receipt of 52 percent of the vote in a public address in which he criticised the Egyptian sentence.
“Since then, Erdoğan and a number of his supporters in the AKP who are campaigning ahead of parliamentary elections on June 7 have engaged in an escalating campaign against the Doğan Media Group and Hürriyet,” the statement said.
Warning over ‘chilling effect’
In recent days, one AKP candidate has even gone so far as to file a criminal complaint against Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin seeking his arrest, a move the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) condemned as a “new blow against press freedom.”
IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said the organization was “very concerned for our members in Turkey and for all those journalists, editors and publishers there who for many years have continued to strive for independent and critical journalism in spite of a climate of fear that led many of their colleagues to choose silence”.
“The chilling effect that intimidation campaigns such as the ongoing one against Hürriyet have on the journalistic community is absolutely evident and we fear that even the more-courageous and outspoken journalists in Turkey will choose to censor themselves, leading to a loss of vital information and opinions,” she continued.
“The international journalistic community, as represented by IPI’s Executive Board, stands resolutely against this and will continue to raise its voice against such blatant violations by the Turkish government and in support of independent journalism in Turkey,” she said.
‘As preposterous as dangerous’
“President Erdoğan’s allegation and the campaign taken up by his supporters are as preposterous as they are dangerous, particularly as Turkey nears parliamentary elections on June 7,” the statement said.
“It is unbecoming for a head of state - who under Turkey’s constitution should remain above the political fray - to stoke fear and polarization so disingenuously in what appears to be a bid to silence critical voices in order to secure a parliamentary margin that will allow him to take even greater power,” it added.
Turkey has suffered a number of such blows in the last decade, as noted in a recent IPI Special Report titled “Democracy at Risk” which published in March. Among others, the report identified ongoing economic pressure on the media, a toxic political climate and manipulation of the legal framework as severe threats to press freedom in the country.
“The people of Turkey, who have seen press freedom decline precipitously over the last decade, deserve better,” the IPI’s May 22 statement concluded.
Click here for the full text of the IPI statement