Erdoğan files a lawsuit against editor-in-chief

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed a legal complaint against the editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, Bülent Keneş, over messages on the microblogging site Twitter, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Thursday.
 
In a complaint filed with the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office, Erdoğan’s lawyers claimed that Keneş insulted the prime minister in his Twitter messages as part of a smear campaign against the prime minister.
 
Erdoğan’s lawyers claimed that Keneş is part of the so-called “parallel structure,” a derogatory term Erdoğan and his aides use to refer to the Hizmet movement inspired by Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen that is active in education, charity, interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
 
The attorneys alleged that Erdoğan became a target of character assassination by Keneş after the prime minister vowed to fight the parallel structure.
 
Erdoğan has accused Hizmet of orchestrating a coup against his government in the guise of corruption investigations that have implicated his family members and close associates. Four ministers were forced to resign after the corruption probe was exposed on Dec. 17 of last year. A parliamentary investigation commission is looking into allegations of bribes, influence-peddling and forgery that prosecutors have claimed was committed by the former ministers.
 
Gülen has denied orchestrating the corruption investigation and any effort to bring down Erdoğan’s government.
 
The prime minister’s lawyers stated in their complaint that Keneş used the language of war and attacked Erdoğan by saying in a tweet that “now they [the government] want to destroy our [media] group.” They also alleged that Keneş exposed police chiefs and prosecutors who have been investigating the parallel structure, a probe that has been revealed to be part of anti-Hizmet plot and criticized by opposition parties and jurists as an illegal “witch hunt.”
 
The lawyers claimed that the Today’s Zaman editor’s comments exceeded the limits of freedom of expression and acceptable criticism, and asked the prosecutor’s office to launch a criminal investigation of Keneş on charges of “insulting a public official.” They also asked for heavy sentencing, citing that it is a repeat offense.
 
Ironically, the petition acknowledged that Keneş did not specifically cite Erdoğan’s name in his tweets, yet it alleged that he was clearly referring to the prime minister in his comments.
 
Erdoğan previously filed another complaint against Keneş and three other journalists, Zaman Deputy Editor-in-Chief Mehmet Kamış, Today’s Zaman columnist Emre Uslu and journalist Önder Aytaç in March on similar charges of insulting the prime minister.
 
He also filed a complaint against Today’s Zaman journalist Mahir Zeynalov for posting tweets that purportedly included “heavy insults and swear words in a bid to provoke the nation to hatred and animosity” in December 2013. They were, in fact, mostly about news reports that had appeared in the media and included no insult directed at Erdoğan.
 
Weeks later, Zeynalov who is Azeri citizen, was deported from Turkey, causing outrage in Turkey and abroad.
 
The Erdoğan government has been cracking down on dissent in the run-up to the August presidential election by launching what is seen as politically motivated criminal complaints against critics, threatening businesses that are not supportive of the government with audits and conducting massive profiling of unsuspecting citizens.

Many journalists have been fired since the government exerted pressured on media owners. The Erdoğan government has also passed a series of bills in Parliament stifling freedom of speech and the press since the corruption scandal was exposed in December of last year.  

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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