A private Turkish university on Monday launched a disciplinary inquiry into Veysel Ulusoy, a professor at its commercial sciences faculty as well as founder of the independent Inflation Research Group (ENA Group), for “speaking to the press without the university’s permission.”
According to a Reuters report, Istanbul’s Yeditepe University launched an inquiry over an interview Ulusoy gave to a local news website about his work at ENA Group. Ulusoy said the inquiry could result in the cancellation of his academic contract.
“I have been expecting something like this since we started this research project years ago,” Ulusoy said. “However, whatever happens in the end we will keep fighting our battle.”
Ulusoy added that the university was under tremendous political pressure and that the administration was acting on government orders.
Ulusoy said ENA Group had the responsibility of objectively informing the public of their findings. “We will continue presenting our findings without giving in to political pressure,” he said.
The ENA Group was founded by independent researchers and academics to calculate inflation in Turkey. Last month it showed Turkey’s annual inflation at 160.76 percent. The number differed drastically from official statistics presented by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat), which showed that annual inflation had risen to 73.5 percent.
TurkStat had earlier filed a complaint against the ENA Group, accusing it of “purposefully defaming” the institution and “misguiding public opinion.”
Opposition lawmakers and economists have questioned the reliability of TurkStat’s figures, and opinion polls show about 50 percent of Turks believe inflation is far higher than official data.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP)is preparing to submit new legislation to parliament that stipulates a three-year prison sentence for economic researchers if they publish unofficial data on indicators without first seeking the approval of TurkStat.
Over the past several years Turkey has been suffering from a deteriorating economy, with high inflation and unemployment as well as a poor human rights record. Erdoğan is criticized for mishandling the economy, emptying the state’s coffers and establishing one-man rule in the country where dissent is suppressed and opponents are jailed on politically motivated charges.
A staggeringly high cost of living has become the new normal in Turkey, where recent increases in food and utility prices are pushing up inflation, further crippling the purchasing power of citizens.
An increasing number of Turks have complained on social media about rising electricity bills and falling into debt. Many have said even basic foods such as vegetables have become a luxury as prices have risen by nearly 400 percent.