Turkish military accuses media of damaging morale, launches legal action

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The Turkish military said on Thursday it had launched legal action against unspecified media outlets over reports it said were damaging morale, as Turkey faces an almost unprecedented combination of national security threats.

Police forensic experts inspect the area after a suicide bombing in a major shopping and tourist district in central Istanbul, Turkey March 19, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir

The military also reaffirmed its commitment to democracy. Turkey’s military has a long history of intervening in politics, pressuring an Islamist-led government out of power as recently as 1997.

Turkey faces huge security challenges, including a campaign of suicide bombings by Islamist militants in its major cities, a conflict with Kurdish militants in its southeast and war in neighboring Syria.

“News and commentaries in some media organs without any foundation naturally influence the morale and motivation of our heroic comrades-in-arms negatively and make all our members uncomfortable,” the military said, without giving further specifics.

“The administrative and legal mechanisms of the Turkish Armed Forces, which take their strength from the deep love and trust of the people and express their adherence to democracy at every opportunity, are employed constantly and effectively.”

It said legal action had been initiated against those writing news “with other motives” who “had gone too far”.

It did not name any media outlets.

The leading Hurriyet newspaper said the military’s statement was referring to allegations of coup preparations by military personnel loyal to President Tayyip Erdogan’s ally-turned-foe, U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen is wanted by the state for allegedly running a “parallel” structure within state institutions, including the security forces and judiciary, that sought to topple Erdogan who has led Turkey, first as prime minister, since 2003.

The cleric denies the charges.

For decades the military was the most powerful force in Turkey. It staged a coup in 1960 and there were two more army takeovers in 1971 and 1980. The army also pressured the country’s first Islamist-led government out of power in 1997.

However, its power has been eroded since the Erdogan’s AK first came to power in 2002 and any military intervention is considered unlikely.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by David Dolan and Raissa Kasolowsky