Turkey's Erdogan blasts New York Times editorial

Agence France-Presse
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves as he arrives to take part in a Turkish tradesman's meeting on May 25, 2015 in Istanbul as part of his campaign.
Ozan Kose

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday accused The New York Times of meddling in Turkey's affairs with a critical editorial, angrily telling the US daily to "know your place."

In a growing controversy over media rights in Turkey ahead of June 7 legislative polls, Erdogan blasted an "impolite" editorial in The New York Times last week which he said "literally gave orders to the United States."

"As a newspaper, [The New York Times] should know your place," he said in a televised speech in Istanbul.

"You are meddling in Turkey's affairs by writing something like this. By publishing this editorial, you are overstepping the limits of freedom," he said.

The New York Times had on Friday published a editorial entitled "Dark Clouds Over Turkey" that was deeply critical of Erdogan's rule, and accusing him of a crackdown ahead of the polls.

"The United States and Turkey's other NATO allies should be urging [Erdogan] to turn away from this destructive path," the editorial said.

Erdogan spat back, "Who are you? Could you say something like this to the US administration?"

The editorial referred to attacks by Erdogan on the Dogan Media Group, which owns the Hurriyet daily, over its coverage of the death sentence handed to former Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi.

In a bizarre dispute, Erdogan and the government accused Hurriyet of implying he could face the death penalty with its headline "death sentence with 52 percent."

Erdogan was elected president with 52 percent of the vote in August 2014 elections after more than a decade as prime minister. Morsi had won elections in 2012 with a similar score.

'Trying to stigmatize us' 

In a rare statement, the honorary president of Dogan Media Group, Aydin Dogan, 79, said Monday that some politicians "try to stigmatize us as an adversary without even giving the slightest justification."

"We can only continue our existence in a free environment under the guarantee of the law," he said, vowing to keep an "equal stance" from all parties.

"We are neither defying the president and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) nor opposing. We are only journalists," said Dogan, founder of the Dogan Holding conglomerate.

Concerns have mounted in recent months over media rights in Turkey, with legal proceedings opened against several journalists on accusations of insulting Erdogan.

Political tensions are riding high in Turkey ahead of the June 7 elections, with the AKP battling to keep the dominance it has maintained over the country since it first came to power in 2002.

Erdogan is playing an increasingly active role in the campaign to bolster the AKP, even though as president he should in theory be apolitical.

An opinion poll by the SONAR organization quoted by Turkish media on Monday said that the AKP was on course to win 41 percent of the vote, but may need to form a coalition for the first time during its almost 13-year domination of the country.

Erdogan wants the AKP to win a two-thirds parliamentary majority, which would allow it to change the constitution and create the presidential system that he yearns for.

Attacking the Dogan Media Group again in his speech, Erdogan said: "The new constitution and the presidential system will block the way of these coup makers forever."