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Turkey's Erdogan calls New York Times 'shameless' after critical editorial

Turkey's president said the US government would 'do what is necessary' if the New York Times had written a critical editorial about them
President Erdogan addresses the audience during his visit in Karlsruhe, southwestern Germany (AFP)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called the New York Times “shameless” in response to a recent editorial by the American newspaper that described him as having a long history of “intimidating” media outlets.

Erdogan spoke at a think-tank panel in Istanbul on Monday and said the New York Times would never have considered writing a similar editorial about the US government.

“Can you write such a thing [a critical editorial] against the US administration?” he asked of the New York Times. “If you do, [the government] would immediately do what is necessary.”

"As a newspaper, you (the New York Times) should know your place. 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.

On 22 May the New York Times published an editorial titled “Dark Clouds of Turkey” that decried Erdogan’s record on allowing a free media.

“Mr Erdogan has a long history of intimidating and co-opting the Turkish media,” the paper wrote, referring to a recent incident in which criminal charges were filed against local daily Hurriyet Daily News over a headline referring to the recent death sentence in Egypt for ousted president Mohamed Morsi.

The headline in question was “The world is shocked! Death sentence for president who received 52 percent of the vote.” The Turkish president, who himself was elected with 52 percent of votes, believed that it insinuated he could meet the same fate as Morsi, according to local newspaper Today’s Zaman.

Hurryiet has defended its headline and pledged to defend free speech “with no fear”.

“If you mean that we are afraid of defending our right to freedom of the press, free speech and freedom to criticize, which are all guaranteed by the constitution, then you should know that we will defend these freedoms with no fear,” the paper wrote in an editorial of 19 May.

The New York Times backed Hurryiet in its editorial by accusing the Turkish president of being fearful of a free press.

“Mr Erdogan appears increasingly hostile to truth-telling. The United States and Turkey’s other NATO allies should be urging him to turn away from this destructive path.”

Turkey will go to the polls on 7 June to elect the 550 members of its Grand National Assembly. Erdogan’s AKP party will be seeking a majority of seats so it can push through changes to give the presidency executive powers.

When responding to the New York Times’ support for Hurriyet, Erdogan said he would use those new powers, if passed, to combat those who “meddle in Turkey’s affairs”.

“A certain media group in Turkey tries to sustain its tutelage by taking support from certain places,” he said. “The new constitution and switching to a presidential system will eternally seal the path of these coup-makers.”