Fake news tangles Ankara politics

Fake news tangles Ankara politics

Fake news penned by senior columnist Rahmi Turan last week has caused a major political debate in Ankara, particularly inside the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

Turan, an 80-year-old journalist for the Sözcü newspaper, argued that a prominent CHP figure had paid a secret visit to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The anonymous source of this information was an official at the office of the presidency, his column claimed.

According to the columnist, Erdoğan promised the visiting CHP figure that he would do his best for his election as the CHP leader as “he was deserving this position” much more than sitting Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

After strong pressure on him, Turan revealed that the visiting CHP figure was Muharrem İnce and that his source was Talat Atilla, another journalist running an online news portal, who got the information from the source at the presidency.

It remains a mystery why Talat Atilla did not write this scoop in his column and passed this information onto other journalists.

For example, Uğur Dündar, another prominent columnist for the daily Sözcü, revealed that Atilla came to him with this information, but he refused to write it because “it would look like an effort to design the CHP leadership.”

For many in the journalistic circles, Atilla’s reputation regarding loyalty to basic journalism principles is not a good one. His website has reported scores of controversial news pieces on mainly Turkish politicians and in many cases, they were denied.

To defend himself, Atilla said that his source was a person from the CHP, and he got an indirect confirmation from Kılıçdaroğlu.

What complicates Talat’s story is the fact that Kılıçdaroğlu stated in a televised interview right after the report hit the headlines: “I am not surprised. I knew it, but I can’t disclose the name.” But Kılıçdaroğlu and CHP officials later changed their rhetoric and blamed the presidency for what they call a “plot aiming at stirring in-house trouble at the CHP.”

Kılıçdaroğlu, however, has not yet explained what he meant by saying that he was not surprised by the visit and that he actually knew who met Erdoğan secretly.

The president’s office has categorically denied the meeting while the president himself said he was ready to resign if such a thing were proven. “Can you do the same?” Erdoğan asked Kılıçdaroğlu, alleging that the plot was actually home-made and against Muharrem İnce, who did run for the presidency in June 2018 against Erdoğan.

At a press conference he held yesterday, İnce was obviously very angry and disappointed. He recalled that he had a phone conversation with Kılıçdaroğlu right after this speculation was printed to warn him about an incoming plot against the party.

He blamed Kılıçdaroğlu for not defending him and not denying reports about his alleged visit to the presidency.

“If he says he knows, then he should reveal the name of this secret visitor,” he said.

İnce described this plot as an effort to tarnish his credibility as a potential rival to Kılıçdaroğlu for the leadership.

“I was subject to multiple smear campaigns since the night of June 24, and they were all organized by a group of people at the CHP headquarters. This is a plot prepared and staged by these people at the CHP. The presidency has nothing to do with it,” he claimed.

It’s not a secret that İnce has plans to become the chairman of the CHP after his performance at the presidential elections, which brought him 31 percent of votes, around six points higher than the CHP’s average vote.

But he had seeded questions marks in the minds of many CHP officials as he failed to run the process on the June 24 election night as he suddenly disappeared. It was speculated he was “as drunk a sow” on that night, and he could not control the vote-counting process.

Furthermore, the rise of Ekrem İmamoğlu, who won the Istanbul elections twice in 2019, has outshined İnce. It’s still believed, however, that İnce still has considerable support within the party and may create problems for Kılıçdaroğlu’s leadership.

It’s quite interesting to observe how a categorically-denied story may cause the main opposition to drift into chaos. The ball is on Kılıçdaroğlu’s side as there are legitimate questions that need to be answered by him.

Otherwise, his party will further suffer from this fake news.