ANKARA (Reuters) - A prominent Turkish journalist has been beaten up outside his home, his newspaper said on Thursday, in what the country’s main opposition party called a sign of growing social tension under President Tayyip Erdogan.
Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for Turkey’s leading secular Hurriyet newspaper and a host on broadcaster CNN Turk, was followed home from the television station by four men in a black car late on Wednesday, before being assaulted near his residence, according to Hurriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin.
He was treated in hospital for a broken nose and ribs
“We see that it was an organized, planned attack,” Ergin was quoted as saying in Hurriyet Daily News.
Ergin did not say who he thought might be behind the attack, which came just weeks after prosecutors launched an investigation into the newspaper’s owner, Dogan Media Group, on accusations of “terrorism propaganda”.
Hurriyet website reported that Hakan’s assailants were detained shortly after the attack, and had told police the incident was sparked by an altercation in traffic.
Last month, pro-government mobs attacked Hurriyet offices, accusing the newspaper of sympathizing with the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) insurgent group.
Hurriyet has been singled out for criticism from Erdogan as the government struggles to control a surge in Kurdish militant violence in the southeast.
Tensions rose further after the ruling AK Party that Erdogan founded lost its parliamentary majority in June general elections, and failed coalition talks prompted a snap election, due on Nov. 1.
Turkey has dropped down press freedom league tables under Erdogan, currently ranking 149th out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.
In an initial reaction, a senior AKP official denounced the attack. “Turkey is (a) democracy, there is a state of law. We do not approve of or accept this attack,” Ayhan Sefer Ustun told Reuters. Other senior officials also took to social media to condemn the assault.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition CHP, said: ”The tension in society climbing to this point creates serious worries for us.
“Our biggest wish is that the government takes careful and consistent steps in the matter of attack on the media.”
Dogan Media and its listed parent Dogan Holding are no strangers to Erdogan’s ire. In May, the group was suspended from state tenders after Erdogan accused its head, Aydin Dogan, of being a “coup lover” and described its media columnists as “charlatans”.
Turkey’s poor record on media freedom could further dissuade foreign investors, already alarmed by the worsening political and security situation, according to Jonathan Friedman, Turkey analyst at Stroz Friedberg, a global risk consultancy.
“Investors want stability and rule of law. When they look at Turkey these days, they see the opposite. It fits into the narrative that Turkey is a high political risk at the moment.”
Reporting by Jonny Hogg; Editing by David Dolan and