May 13, 2015

Reactions grow over pro-gov’t media smear campaign against MHP’s Akşener

Reactions to a pro-government media smear campaign targeting prominent Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy Meral Akşener have mounted, as many political figures and intellectuals are declaring their support for Akşener.

In a controversial program aired by the pro-government TV station A Haber on Sunday night, journalists Cemil Barlas and Latif Erdoğan discussed Akşener's recent appearance on a program broadcast on Samanyolu TV in which she talked about her party's election manifesto for June's general election.

Akşener had said her party will not form a coalition with the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which is now in power but facing the possibility of losing the majority in Parliament, according to many election survey forecasts released recently.

Pro-government names Erdoğan and Barlas said on Sunday that Akşener can be seen in a videotape with "inappropriate content," implying inappropriate sexual conduct, and alleged that the video was made by the Gülen movement. Pro-government dailies then printed the suggestive claim. Erdoğan recently launched a campaign of defamation against the Gülen movement, which is inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and also known as the Hizmet movement, after he parted ways with the community, supporting government-backed claims about the movement in the press.

Akşener has already launched legal action against A Haber and submitted a written complaint about the station to the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the state body responsible for monitoring TV stations as to whether their broadcasts violate personal rights and the society's moral values.

Appearing on a CNN Türk program on Tuesday night to speak about the campaign targeting her, Akşener stressed that the issue is more about being a woman in political life rather than herself, adding: "I submitted applications to both the court and RTÜK for the required steps to be taken about the defamation campaign. As far as I know, the TV station is owned by Kalyon İnşaat, and I know the family [that owns it]. Furthermore, [President Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan's son-in-law and brother previously worked for the station. I believe the honor and personal security of all women lie in the hands of those who govern the country. From now on, they are responsible for following the required processes to punish those who engaged in a campaign of abuse against me. I will closely follow the steps taken by RTÜK in the face of this defamation."

Gülen condemns those behind campaign

Gülen made a statement through the website on Wednesday harshly condemning those who attacked Akşener.

"It is obvious that Meral Akşener is a woman with high moral standards and she has served her country based on patriotism, virtue, purity and the feeling of responsibility. But some selfish and self-interested people may resort to methods of smearing those whom they consider an opponent and adversary through defamation and lies," Gülen said in the statement, expressing sorrow over what Akşener is facing.

Gülen also said that this kind of slander will not damage Akşener, but reveals the rudeness and immorality of those who are part of such an ugly campaign, adding, "Such slander will only serve to enhance the determination to work harder and efforts to serve in a better way of such people who are targeted."

Meanwhile, Selahattin Demirtaş, the co-leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), also condemned those who engaged in the defamation campaign, saying: "They [pro-government circles] aimed to launch an immoral campaign against Meral Akşener. This is their method -- engaging in filth.”

On Tuesday, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç called the allegation about Akşener “very ugly.” He said he has known Akşener since 1999 and described her as a very serious, courageous and decent person. “I condemn the slander directed at Akşener,” he said.

Turkish Bar Association (TBB) Chairman Metin Feyzioğlu wrote on his Facebook page that those making the slanderous accusation about Akşener are miserable people who act as a government mouthpiece. Feyzioğlu said Barlas and Erdoğan are both dishonest and dishonorable for making disgusting and slanderous accusations about the private life and honor of a person.

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 May 2015, Wednesday