State-run agency fires reporter for asking questions about interior minister

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The state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkey’s oldest media institution, has fired a reporter after he asked questions at a press conference about recent allegations of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu’s links to the mafia.

Soon after Anadolu correspondent Musab Turan posted a video on Instagram showing him asking questions about Soylu to two other ministers during a press conference on Friday, the agency announced that his employment contract had been canceled for violating professional ethics and other reasons.

“The relevant institutions have been notified about canceling his press card and gray passport,” Anadolu said, adding that a prosecutor had been informed so that an investigation could be launched to determine whether the reporter was a member of a terrorist organization.

The video shows Turan introducing himself as an Anadolu correspondent and directing questions about Soylu to Minister of Industry and Technology Mustafa Varank and Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli.

“There are claims that have been occupying the country’s agenda for the past couple of days. … Did these claims cause our country any problems in the international arena? Does the government have any plans about this?” Turan asks.

“Is the name of [the ruling Justice and Development Party, AKP] … [of] less [importance] than Süleyman Soylu, whose name has been mentioned a lot lately? Everybody is talking about this … but the minister [Soylu] doesn’t say a word,” the reporter continues.

Turan finally asks Pakdemirli whether Soylu gave any explanation regarding the allegations against him during the latest cabinet meeting and whether that explanation convinced the ministers of his innocence.

The video shows Varank answering the question directed at Pakdemirli by accusing Turan of making a scene during the press conference. “The most important aspect of AKP rule is that it has solidified its power by fighting all kinds of gangs over the last 19 years. It’s not possible for us to have any links to illegal organizations,” he says.

Meanwhile, Turan also posted a video statement on Instagram, explaining that what prompted him ask the ministers those questions was a minister’s advisor named Rıdvan Tezel, who whispered in his ear, “We don’t ask any questions,” in reference to the claims about Soylu.

“That [whisper] did it for me. All the press members there were from the [pro-government] Demirören news agency, Anadolu agency and [state broadcaster] TRT Haber. When have these guys have ever been able to ask you anything [worthwhile]?” Turan asked, addressing government officials.

Sedat Peker, the head of one of Turkey’s most powerful mafia groups who was once a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has since early May been setting the country’s political agenda through videos he posts on YouTube, each of which reaches over a million viewers on the first day of their release.

The mafia boss, who lives in Dubai and is the subject of an outstanding warrant in Turkey, has been making shocking revelations about state-mafia relations and drug trafficking and murders implicating state officials.

Peker alleged in the videos that it was connections to his family that had helped Soylu rise through the ranks of the right-wing True Path Party (DYP) before he joined the ruling AKP in 2012 at the invitation of Erdoğan. He also claimed that Soylu helped him avoid police prosecution by notifying him that an investigation was being prepared against him, before he fled Turkey in early 2020. The mob boss further said that Soylu previously told people that he and Erdoğan “liked” Peker.

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