Turkey’s deputy PM threatens media amid ongoing crackdown

Turkey's Deputy PM Numan Kurtulmus at the 'Terrorism and Media Symposium' in Ankara, 24 February 2017.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Friday threatened media outlets, which he accused of “terrorist propaganda” and said, “they need to watch their step.”

Speaking at the ‘Media and Terrorism Symposium’ in Ankara, Kurtulmus said, “terrorist organisations need to be defined parallel to how society sees them.”

“The media needs to be vigilant against terrorist propaganda. I’m speaking openly, the media has to watch its step from now. Sometimes I’m criticised for saying this but we are a country fighting terror and our media cannot do whatever it likes,” the deputy PM said.

Kurtulmus continued by referring to the Gulenist movement, accused of being behind the coup attempt, and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) saying, “Some media outlets are still using the terminology of terrorist organisations. Like ‘militia’, or ‘president’ or ‘imam’, the ‘imam’ of this or that or the ‘president’ of this or that. This is what terrorist organisations want. This is what the lead-murderer in Pennsylvania [referring to Fethullah Gulen] wants. Terrorist organisations cannot have presidents, representatives and imams. They are all terrorists. Whether they are PKK, Daesh [IS] or FETO [Gulenist] they are all against humanity and murderers.”

Kurtulmus’ comments come amid the ongoing suppression of media outlets and journalism in Turkey, which has attracted criticism from international governments and rights organisations.

Amnesty International published a report in February entitled, ‘A prison of silence: the death of journalism in Turkey’, in which it said Turkey was the number one jailer of journalists in the world and that more than 120 journalists were imprisoned, while more than 160 media outlets had been closed down since July’s failed coup attempt.

The crackdown has also spread to social media sharing with 68,774 Facebook and Twitter accounts being investigated leading to the imprisonment of 1734 individuals.

Commentators have criticised government officials’ rhetoric on terrorism and the media saying it is being used as a tool to suppress all political opposition and dissident voices ahead of the upcoming referendum on constitutional reform for a presidential system.

A group of independent journalists calling themselves 140 Journos recently published a video likening Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rhetoric on the media and terrorism with that of US President Donald Trump.