Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan once again targeted a journalist in a public appearance, but it almost went unnoticed, and according to the journalist who was publicly targeted, “the public has gotten used to it.”
“But this is also dangerous because among his supporters are mafia bosses and wannabe gangsters. And they live not only in Turkey,” he told Turkish Minute.
A week before local elections, President Erdoğan was interviewed by a pro-government TV channel during which he was asked about Ekrem Dumanlı, a Turkish journalist who fled after the Turkish government seized Zaman, the daily of which he was editor-in-chief.
Turkey had seized several media outlets, including Zaman, affiliated with the Gülen movement even before a coup attempt in 2016.
Dumanlı has been posting weekly YouTube videos on his personal account for a while now, and one of his video-commentaries about the recent local elections became a subject of the pro-government media.
In that video Dumanlı called on the Turkish public to cast their ballots on March 31, despite the hopelessness and fatigue experienced from consecutive elections in the country.
The pro-government A Haber news ran a story about Dumanlı’s video, implying that Dumanlı, as a representative of the Gülen movement, lent support to the opposition candidate for Ankara’s mayoral post, Mansur Yavaş.
It was a distortion of what Dumanlı had said and eventually was removed from the A Haber news website.
During the election campaign Erdoğan repeatedly said the opposition candidates were controlled by terrorist groups, by which the Turkish president usually meant the Gülen movement and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Erdoğan’s government puts the blame for the failed 2016 coup on the Gülen movement, although it strongly denies any involvement.
“He is a discredited person,” Erdoğan told reporters about Dumanlı in the TV interview.
“[The Gülenists] thought they could overthrow me with July 15 [the coup attempt], but today’s Turkey is not the old Turkey,” he added, referring to Dumanlı as one of the high-ranking members of the movement.
Erdoğan went even further: “Dumanlı! You are a slave of [Fethullah Gülen]. You can’t even live in your homeland anymore!”
Gülen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999, is the leader of the movement.
According to Dumanlı, who served as editor-in-chief of the Zaman daily for 13 years, these remarks are worthy of news in a normal country, but the “public has gotten used to it” because Erdoğan usually stigmatizes dissenters.
Several Turkish courts have issued arrest warrants for Dumanlı, and in some cases prosecutors demanded a life sentence for him over his Gülen ties.
“He has all the media coverage in his hands but is still targeting journalists who can only use social media to convey their opinions to the public,” Dumanlı said.
According to a Deutsche Welle Turkish service report, President Erdoğan during his rule has publicly targeted dozens of journalists, artists and businessmen with derogatory comments.
Actors Metin Akpınar and Müjdat Gezen, TV anchor Fatih Portakal, jailed businessman Osman Kavala, talk show host Beyazıt Öztürk and journalists Can Dündar, Deniz Yücel and Amberin Zaman are among them.