ISTANBUL (Reuters) – A veteran U.S. journalist and author said on Wednesday President Tayyip Erdogan had blocked his honorary citizenship and declared him an enemy of the state, as the Turkish leader’s war on critical media intensifies ahead of a June election.
In what opponents see as part of a campaign to muzzle dissent, Erdogan has repeatedly berated news outlets including the New York Times and Turkish daily Hurriyet, while a prosecutor this month sought to shut two TV stations, seen as opposed to the government, on terrorism-related charges.
Erdogan is constitutionally barred from party politics as head of state, but has been making podium speeches across Turkey ahead of the June 7 polls in the hope the ruling AK Party will win a big enough majority to hand him greater powers.
“Hey New York Times, apparently you think you can give us a lesson on press freedom,” Erdogan said in a speech in the western city of Usak on Wednesday, after the newspaper published an editorial that suggested he was engaged in “brute manipulation of the political process”.
Addressing a crowd of thousands, Erdogan described the paper’s journalists as “paid charlatans” and accused it of seeking to undermine Turkey over decades.
“At critical times, this newspaper’s stories regarding Turkey have always smelled of provocation,” he said.