Selçuk Bayraktar, the chief technical officer of Turkish unmanned aerial vehicle producer Baykar who is also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has faced harsh criticism from journalists for his remarks targeting veteran investigative journalist and Sözcü daily columnist Çiğdem Toker, local media reported on Friday.
The Turkish Technology Team Foundation (T3 Foundation) — whose board chairman is Bayraktar — had sued the journalist over a 2019 column in which she claimed that the İstanbul Municipality made large funds transfers to pro-government foundations, including the T3 Foundation, which is claimed to have received TL 41.3 million ($2.8 million).
The lawsuit was recently decided in favor of Bayraktar’s foundation, with the court ordering Toker to pay the T3 Foundation TL 30,000 ($2,042) in damages.
Citing a tweet by the foundation that announced the ruling under the hashtag #GazetecilikMüfterilikDeğildir (Journalism isn’t libel), Bayraktar said, “This is [about] the so-called journalist who was the first to spread, during the 2019 local elections … the lie that our foundation received money from the [İstanbul Municipality].”
“Journalism also isn’t lying, fraud or shameful behavior,” Bayraktar added, receiving widespread criticism from press associations and journalists critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Yalancının mumu yatsıya kadar yanar..
bu, 2019 yerel seçim döneminde vakfımız aleyhine başlatılan kirli kampanyayı ve İBB'den para aldığı yalanını ilk yayan gazeteci müsveddesi.
arsızlık da değildir!#GazetecilikMüfterilikDeğildir https://t.co/KOQYtarpEm
— Selçuk Bayraktar (@Selcuk) March 31, 2022
“We condemn Selçuk Bayraktar’s insulting post about journalist and writer Çiğdem Toker and such poisonous language. Bayraktar should apologize. Journalists in Ankara stand by Çiğdem Toker,” the Ankara branch of the Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) tweeted on Friday.
Selçuk Bayraktar'ın gazeteci yazar Çiğdem Toker'e yönelik hakaret içerikli paylaşımını ve özellikle bu zehirli dili kınıyoruz. Bayraktar, özür dilemelidir. Ankaralı gazeteciler, Çiğdem Toker'in yanındadır. https://t.co/lMus1wL440
— TGS Ankara Şubesi (@TGSAnkaraSubesi) April 1, 2022
“Çiğdem Toker, whom he calls a so-called journalist, has been writing about corruption and funds transfers for years, and the interesting thing is that she has had no shortage of subjects [in Turkey],” journalist Ozan Gündoğdu said.
Gazeteci müsveddesi dediği Çiğdem Toker, yolsuzlukları, servet transferlerini yıllardır yazıyor ve işin ilginç yanı konu sıkıntısı çekmiyor. Bayraktar, milliyetçi hamasetin alkışını fazla büyütüyor. Zaten milliyetçi hamaset de Bayraktar’ı fazla büyütüyor… https://t.co/n6jVau5YrF
— Ozan Gündoğdu (@ozngndgdu) April 1, 2022
“No matter your basis, what you sell or whom you sell it to or whose son-in-law you are, you can’t insult journalists, you can’t point to them as targets!” Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) said in a tweet, addressing Bayraktar.
Dayanağınız ne olursa olsun, kime ne satarsanız satın, kimin damadı olursanız olun; gazetecilere hakaret edemez, hedef gösteremezsiniz!
— ÇGD (@cgdgenelmerkez) April 1, 2022
“First you need to look at the judiciary and its decisions [and see] if they are credible, and only then you can say your words. That is, if these insults are called ‘words.’ Çiğdem Toker is an honor for this country. [Eventually] you’ll go, but she’ll still be here,” said lawyer Tuba Torun, referring to Erdoğan and his AKP government.
Önce Yargı ve kararları güvenilir mi ona bakmak, ondan sonra sözünü söylemek lazım. Bu hakaretlere söz denirse tabi..
Çiğdem Toker bu ülkenin yüz akıdır.
Siz gidersiniz, o kalır.@cigdemtoker https://t.co/5HfbE9eoPe
— Tuba Torun (@avtubatorunn) April 1, 2022
Torun is also the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) member on the High Disciplinary Board and a columnist for the Gazete Duvar news website.
Meanwhile, journalist Şirin Payzın on Friday announced on social media that Bayraktar had also sued her for TL 150,000 ($10,213) for criticizing the transparency of the sale of Baykar’s combat drones in a question posed to an opposition lawmaker during a political debate program on Halk TV on Feb. 16.
Bayraktar’s TB2 unmanned aerial vehicles, which have a proven track record in conflicts in Libya, Syria and Nagorno-Karabakh, have also been deployed by Ukrainian forces against Russian troops since Moscow invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
TB2 drones, which are 39 feet long with a wingspan of 21 feet and an operational altitude of 18,000 feet, can fly up to 138 miles per hour and can carry four smart munitions, or up to 330 pounds.
Ukraine has had TB2 drones since 2019 and has purchased around 50 over the past three years.
Turkey’s latest nationwide municipal polls, which were held on March 31, 2019, ended in the first significant electoral defeat for the AKP, which lost several major cities, including İstanbul, Turkey’s largest city and commercial hub.
The elections marked the end of 25 years of conservative municipal rule in the city as it was won by the CHP. Erdoğan challenged the result in İstanbul, which was ultimately canceled. A re-run held a few months later was won again by the CHP’s Ekrem İmamoğlu, this time by a much greater margin.