Turkish President Erdoğan’s ultra-nationalist ally targets journalists who ‘defamed’ his party

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, an ultra-nationalist ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, ran an advertisement in a number of newspapers on Tuesday, listing the names of 70 journalists from various media outlets, researchers and polling company managers who, according to him, had defamed his party during the recent election campaign, the T24 news website reported.

Bahçeli’s remarks in the advertisement titled “A Thank You Message” targeted journalists, saying, “We will never forget what they did, what they wrote, what they destroyed, what they commented.”

“The respected people (!) whose names are written below had come up smiling (!) from an extensive and exhaustive smear campaign that took months,” the ad said with a hint of sarcasm.

The MHP garnered more than 11 percent support in Sunday’s general election, exceeding the predictions of journalists and polling companies.

Bahçeli had repeatedly slammed journalists and polling companies that had forecast the MHP’s share of support at around 5 percent.

“The results of the June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections showed once more that the Turkish nation does not fall for perception games, or believe slanderers,” the ad said.

Journalists unions, on the other hand, responded to Bahçeli’s newspaper ad, stating that it was a dangerous way to refute journalists.

“Although there are more civilized methods, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli’s targeting of journalists who criticized him and his party with ‘ads’ and ‘lists’ is extremely dangerous,” Journalists Without Borders (RSF) representative Erol Önderoğlu said on Tuesday.

“Accusing our colleagues of conducting a ‘smear campaign’ is crossing the line,” the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) also said in a written statement.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). 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 244 journalists and media workers were in jail as of June 21, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 184 were under arrest pending trial while only 60 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 a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Meanwhile, MHP’s Vice Chairman Mustafa Kalaycı said an ongoing state of emergency should be extended as long as the threat posed by the Gülen movement has not been overcome and an offensive against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Qandil Mountains of northern Iraq is continuing, during a TV appearance on Tuesday.

Turkey declared a state of emergency after a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, giving expanded authority to law enforcement in terrorism cases.

During the recent campaign for snap elections on June 24, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had declared a lifting of the state of emergency a priority after the elections but later said it would be extended yet again.

On Monday Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ said there is a clear will among society to end of the state of emergency, but he added that the timing has not yet been decided.

The MHP will have 49 seats in parliament in the next legislative year, while the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will have 295. The number of seats in parliament was increased from 550 to 600 in a referendum held last year, meaning that the AKP will be in need of the MHP’s assistance to enact legislation. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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