Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Wednesday said there are people working to discredit Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of the June 24 presidential election, adding, “Turkish people are smarter than Emmanuel Macron, smarter than those engaged in political engineering.”
Speaking to reporters in the Central Anatolian province of Yozgat, Bozdağ criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for defending Le Point magazine, which in its latest issue described Erdoğan as a dictator.
Macron on Monday objected to news agents taking down a poster advertising this week’s cover of Le Point, which shows Erdogan with the label “dictator,” after a group of Erdoğanist Turks in Avignon succeeded in securing the removal of a publicity poster for the French magazine.
“Turkish people are smarter than Macron, smarter than those engaged in political engineering,” Bozdağ said. “That is why I would like to say to those who are trying to discredit our president: You will be unable to take our president from our people’s hearts.”
Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoglu and EU Affairs Minister Ömer Çelik also slammed Macron’s stance. “Democracy is not only about one side insisting on insults, swearwords, and lies, but is also about considering other sides’ views and sensitivities,” Çavuşoğlu said in a tweet.
“French magazine Le Point circulated a hate crime and attacked our president with dark propaganda,” Çelik tweeted. “How long have hate crimes been freedom of the press? Is it proper for Macron when the same style, hate speech and black propaganda are used against him?”
Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday. If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.
Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 253 journalists and media workers were in jail as of May 11, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 192 were under arrest pending trial while only 61 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 142 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.
Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.