Erdoğan says Hürriyet daily will pay a heavy price for army-gov’t tension story

The report, which was published by Hurriyet daily on Feb. 25, 2017 was titled “The [military] headquarters is restless,” which meant to say that the General Staff was disturbed about criticism suggesting that it was too close to the ruling AKP and found it without merit.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has heavily criticized the Hürriyet daily for a report on army-government relationship, saying that the daily will pay a heavy price for it.

Speaking at İstanbul’s Atatürk Airport before departing for a visit to Pakistan, Erdoğan said one of the issues he discussed with chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar during a meeting at the presidential palace on Monday was Hürriyet’s story.

The report, which was published by the daily on Saturday and written by Hürriyet’s Ankara Representative Hande Fırat, was titled “The [military] headquarters is restless,” which meant to say that the General Staff was disturbed about criticism suggesting that it was too close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and found it without merit.

“What is being done here is an act of misbehavior, worthlessness. Neither the administration of the paper nor its boss can come up with such a headline…. Whoever tries to pit us [the government and the military] against each other, they will pay a heavy price,” Erdoğan said.

The president also said the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) was also disturbed about Hürriyet’s story.

“We are like the organs of the same body,” he said and added that he will closely follow the course of the investigation.

Turkey’s General Staff has also broken its silence about the report published by the Hürriyet daily last Saturday and said the daily distorted its response to criticisms toward the military. Releasing a statement on Tuesday, the General Staff said it has informed a journalist about the criticisms against the TSK and no expression such as, ‘the military is restless,’ was used.

“Reflecting the issue as if there is a tension between the TSK and the government is just distorting it,” said the General Staff’s statement.

On Monday, the Bakırköy Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office launched an investigation into the Hürriyet daily Saturday’s report.

The Hürriyet daily, which is at center of government criticism due to a recent report on ties between military  and the government, has replaced its editor-in-chief Sedat Ergin with former Milliyet daily editor-in-chief Fikret Bila according to a story in the T24 news portal on Tuesday. Ergin was fired after the group was targeted by pro-government circles and an investigation was launched by a prosecutor over a report published on Saturday in which anonymous military sources responded to criticism suggesting that the Turkish General Staff is too close to the AKP government.

Also, the Hürriyet daily has voiced regret over the report and called the headline of the story an editorial mistake that went beyond its purpose. Releasing a statement on Tuesday, Hürriyet said: “We have never imagined such a meaning would be attributed to this headline. Such a deliberate act is out of the question. Even if there was no such intention, the ‘military is restless’ headline could be seen as an editorial mistake. We are sorry for it.”

Hürriyet’s statement came following remarks by President Erdoğan, who said the daily would pay a heavy price for writing such a story which he said was aimed at pitting the government and the military against each other. The daily’s announcement also came after a statement from the General Staff, which accused the daily of distorting its statements.

Some government figures also criticized the Hürriyet daily for its report, claiming that the daily’s headline was reminiscent of the “Young Officers Are Restless” headline that appeared in the Cumhuriyet daily in May 2003 shortly after the AKP came to power as a single party government. The Cumhuriyet’s news report hinted at a military intervention because military officers were uneasy with the practices of the AKP government.

Speaking in Ankara on Sunday, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım did not mention the name of Hürriyet but said there were efforts to intimidate the government with headlines and that such efforts were the result of a perception management operation.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ also criticized Hürriyet on Sunday for its report. Writing from his Twitter account, Bozdağ said: “It has been years since the era of getting results and intimidating Turkish governments with headlines has been closed. But there are still some whose old habits have resurfaced and who dream of an old Turkey. Turkey is not the old Turkey. Have you still not understood this?”

On Monday, German daily Die Welt’s Turkey reporter Deniz Yücel, who was detained in Turkey on Feb. 14 as part of an investigation for publishing stories on the leaked emails of President Erdoğan’s son-in-law, who is also Turkey’s Energy Minister, Berat Albayrak, was arrested by a court.

According to a report released by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) on Jan. 26, 2017, Turkish government has jailed 191 journalists so far and the most of the journalists have not even seen an indictment against them. The report also stated that 92 journalists are wanted for arrest but remain at large either in Turkey or abroad.

SCF has also said that the number of media organizations seized and shut down by the government has reached 189. (SCF with Feb. 28, 2017

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