Turkish prime minister sues journalist for insult on Twitter

The state-run Anadolu news agency reported on July 10, 2014, that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asked the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch a criminal investigation against Bülent Keneş, editor-in-chief of the English-language daily newspaper Today’s Zaman, on charges of “insulting a public official.”

According to the complaint, Erdoğan said Keneş had mounted a smear campaign against him on Twitter allegedly in retaliation for the prime minister’s crackdown on the influential movement of exiled Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. The prime minister cracked down on the Gülen movement after the eruption of a graft scandal based on leaks in social media, which implicated Turkish authorities. Erdoğan said the leaks were fake and blamed the Gülen movement for concocting them to topple his government.

In the legal complaint against Keneş, Erdoğan’s lawyers said the editor targeted the prime minister with his Twitter messages, specifically in a tweet that said “now they [the government] want to destroy our [media] group,” Today’s Zaman reported. The prime minister’s defense lawyers said that Keneş’s comments had “exceeded the limits of freedom of expression and acceptable criticism,” the daily said.

This is not the first complaint against Bülent Keneş. In March 2014, Erdoğan filed claims against Keneş and his deputy, Mehmet Kamış, saying they “humiliated” the prime minister on Twitter.

Neither the March 2014 claim nor the July 2014 claim proceeded to the courts. Bülent Keneş was not in custody on July 18, 2014.