Turkish PM Erdoğan and CNN International in war of words over Gezi protests

Turkish PM Erdoğan and CNN International in war of words over Gezi protests

Turkish PM Erdoğan and CNN International in war of words over Gezi protests

Ivan Watson was detained near Taksim Square while on air on May 31. REUTERS Photo

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has blasted a CNN International correspondent over his coverage of the Gezi anniversary protests, but the U.S. broadcaster has stood by its reporting.

“That CNN International lackey is trying to do something there. He made an eight-hour broadcast during last year’s Gezi events. Why? To stir up trouble in my country. This year, they have been caught red-handed,” said Erdoğan during his weekly address to his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) lawmakers in Parliament on June 3.

“Those don’t have anything to do with independent and impartial media. They have been given tasks. They are agents,” he added. 

However, CNN International’s public relations office issued a statement to daily Radikal defending its reporting. “We stand unequivocally by our reporting from Turkey, which has been and continues to be fair, factual and impartial,” it stated.

CNN correspondent Ivan Watson was briefly detained on air during Gezi anniversary protests May 31, and later said he was also kicked by a police officer.

Erdoğan, who again toughened his rhetoric against foreign media coverage of the demonstrations in Turkey, also accused Der Spiegel and BBC Turkish over their reports on the Soma mining disaster in the past few weeks. Both news outlets stood by their reports.

In his weekly address to his party’s lawmakers on June 3, Erdoğan once again praised the police’s attitude during the crackdown on the Gezi anniversary, while slamming "big capital holders" for giving “financial aid” to protesters. He also criticized the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) for “logistical” support.

“They have been unable to activate their obscure scenarios in spite of calls from the CHP and marginal terrorist organizations. Thanks to our police’s unyielding stance, [protesters] went as they came. During the previous Gezi, they had the support of capital. But this time they remained naked without it. Those who called for rebellion from luxurious Istanbul cafés were left empty-handed on Saturday,” he said.

The prime minister once again described the protests as a "coup attempt," while slamming “hate speech” against the government in critical news outlets and social media.

“This violence and vandalism was presented to the world as an environmental protest. But our people saw just like us what the goal really was … Those who cannot accept the government of Anatolia and Thrace want to carry out a coup using the streets,” he said. 

Erdoğan also vowed to show footage of police crackdowns on protesters across the world to prove that the Turkish police’s handling of Gezi demonstrations was even-handed, defending himself for recently saying he was "surprised about the police’s patience" toward protesters. 

“So I don’t have the right to defend my police? Can such thing be possible? Go and do this in the United States. Go and do it in Britain or Spain. Those who continually target our police should see how they behave elsewhere in the world,” Erdoğan said.

Thousands of people gathered for demonstrations marking the first anniversary of last year’s nationwide Gezi protests, mainly in Istanbul and Ankara, amid extreme security measures. Police once again staged crackdowns, resorting to water cannon, tear gas, rubber bullets and batons, leaving many protesters injured and detaining over 150 people. 

In a similar fashion to last year, items like helmets and even a raincoat were used as evidence against those detained.