Turkey’s far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has described a reporter from Voice of America’s Turkish edition who asked the party’s leader about the recent assassination of the former president of the Grey Wolves, the party’s youth wing, as a “provocateur.”
MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli rebuked VOA reporter Yıldız Yazıcıoğlu, who was among a group of journalists trying to ask the MHP leader questions following a party meeting in parliament on Tuesday.
“Mind your own business,” an angry Bahçeli told Yazıcıoğlu in front of the cameras and walked away when the journalist was trying to ask about the murder of Sinan Ateş, the former president of the Grey Wolves.
Ateş was fatally shot in the capital city of Ankara on Dec 30. Now an academic, Ateş, who was leaving an apartment with a friend when they were attacked by two men on motorcycles, was seriously injured by a bullet to the head and pronounced dead shortly after being taken to a hospital.
Nationalists have accused the MHP of failing to react to Ateş’s murder.
Ateş, who served as president of the Grey Wolves from 2019 to 2020, was dismissed by the leader of the MHP and has been the target of the group’s members on social media.
Yazıcıoğlu was also pushed away by an MHP official near Bahçeli.
A statement made by the party later described the journalist as a “provocateur” and “agent,” claiming that her attitude does not comply with professional ethics.
The MHP statement said the journalist’s links to “anti-Turkey” journalist Can Dündar, who lives in exile, and her being a staff member of VOA, which is “one of the leading propaganda tools of the US,” reveal the unhappiness of these circles with the MHP and Turkey.
Meanwhile, journalist Yazıcıoğlu who later spoke to KRT TV, said what saddened her the most was that the person who pushed her away was an MHP lawmaker, not the police or Bahçeli’s security detail.
She said she has been working as a parliamentary reporter for years and thinks the fundamental job of a journalist is to ask questions.
MHP Genel Başkanı Bahçeli’nin, bugün kendisine Erdoğan’ın adaylığı ve Sinan Ateş cinayetine ilişkin soru sormak isteyen gazeteci Yıldız Yazıcıoğlu’na (@journalofyy), “İşine bak, hadi bakalım” diyerek verdiği üslupsuz karşılığı kınıyoruz. pic.twitter.com/SyhIDv6RJp
— ÇGD (@cgdgenelmerkez) January 24, 2023
Turkey’s Contemporary Journalists’ Association (ÇGD) condemned the way Bahçeli treated Yazıcıoğlu on Tuesday, describing his attitude as “disrespectful.”
In Turkey, which has a poor record on freedom of the press, journalists frequently face harassment from judicial authorities and politicians for their journalistic work not favored by the government or its allies.
In a controversial move last year, Turkey’s broadcasting regulator, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), imposed a ban on the Turkish editions of international news websites VOA and Deutsche Welle on the grounds that they refused to comply with an order from RTÜK to obtain broadcasting licenses, which they said would amount to censorship.
The move by RTÜK has been described by media outlets as an attempt at censorship and at expansion of the Turkish government’s control over domestic media to foreign outlets, which are the only source of free and independent journalism for some people in Turkey, where the majority of the media is controlled by the government.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 90 percent of the national media in Turkey, which was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the RSF’s 2022 World Press Freedom Index, is owned by pro-government businessmen and toe the official line.