President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s chief advisor, Yiğit Bulut, has targeted the Hürriyet daily and the Doğan media group for a story that reported on alleged discomfort within the military due to the removal of a headscarf ban for female officers.
Writing on his Twitter account, Bulut considered Hürriyet’s headline story on Saturday to be a threat against Erdoğan.
“Nobody can threaten the Turkish nation, state and ummah,” said Bulut, claiming that the story aims to prevent an upcoming Erdoğan visit to Russia without explaining how.
Critics of the government believe that Hürriyet could have published such a story on purpose to consolidate President Erdoğan’s base, which is highly sensitive about the headscarf issue.
Aykut Erdoğdu, a Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy, said on Saturday on his Twitter account that the government aims to play the victim by means of a story reported by Hande Fırat. For the CHP deputy, the headline was planned by the government and Hürriyet since “no” votes seem ahead in the polls for an upcoming April 16 referendum that will bring an executive presidency to Turkey.
In the report, which was written by Hürriyet’s Ankara Representative Fırat, military sources responded to widespread criticism claiming that the country’s General Staff is too close to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
The headline of the story was “The [military] headquarters is restless,” which meant to say that the General Staff was disturbed about such criticism.
On Saturday, Cem Küçük, a staunchly pro-government journalist known for his social media attacks on government critics, called on prosecutors to take legal action against the Hürriyet daily’s owner Aydın Doğan and journalist Fırat and ensure their arrest due to Saturday’s report.
Writing from his Twitter account, Küçük said: “With this news report, Hande Fırat and Hürriyet committed suicide. This is no different than the ‘Young Officers Are Restless’ headline.”
The “Young Officers Are Restless” headline is a reference to a news report that appeared in the Cumhuriyet daily in May 2003 shortly after the AKP came to power as a single party government. The news report hinted at a military intervention because military officers were uneasy with the practices of the AKP government.
Küçük called on prosecutors to launch an investigation into Doğan and Fırat and ensure their arrest, claiming that writing such a headline is a crime.
Küçük also claimed that both Doğan and Fırat are enemies of democracy and that their anti-coup attitude during a failed coup attempt on July 15 was fake.
On the evening of July 15 President Erdoğan connected to one of the most highly watched news channels in the country, CNNTürk, via FaceTime on the show of host and journalist Fırat. Thanks to this Facetime call, Erdoğan was able to mobilize the people against the putschists on the night of the attempt.
Fırat had stated that Erdoğan’s call was spontaneous. However, later on, during a ceremony on Nov. 13 in which Fırat received an award for this particular story, the owner of CNNTürk and the Doğan Media Group, Aydın Doğan, said Fırat told him about the possibility of a connection with the president on the night of the coup. In response, Doğan told Fırat that if she could manage it on live TV, he would reward her journalistic success by paying her wedding reception costs and would buy her an apartment.
The Cumhuriyet daily in November ran a story directing attention to the controversial remarks by Doğan and Fırat and asking who was lying about the details of that FaceTime call. However Cumhuriyet deleted the story from its news portal hours later.