Istanbul: One of Turkey’s most prominent anti-government journalists was attacked early today outside his home in Istanbul, raising fears over the security of media figures who taken a critical line against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Ahmet Hakan, a respected columnist for the Hurriyet daily and a TV show host on CNN-Turk who has faced death threats, was hospitalised after sustaining injuries to his ribs and nose.
A gang of four attacked Hakan shortly after midnight outside his home in the upscale Nisantasi district of Istanbul, Hurriyet said.
After hosting his late-night show, Tarafsiz Bolge, Hakan left the shared headquarters of CNN-Turk and Hurriyet in a private car along with his driver and bodyguard, it said. One of the assailants held off his bodyguard and the other three beat Hakan before fleeing in their car.
Police detained all four suspects after a hot pursuit, Hurriyet said. The attack on Hakan sparked widespread condemnation and fresh concern about deteriorating press freedoms in Turkey, which is gearing up for a snap November election, its second in five months.
In a message relayed by Hurriyet editor-in-chief Sedat Ergin, Hakan said: “Such attacks will never intimidate us. We are not afraid of anything. We will continue to walk on the path we have chosen.”
Ergin said it was an “organised, planned attack,” because the assailants had followed Hakan after he left his office. The US embassy in Ankara said in a tweet: “Those who seek to intimidate journalists with violence are fighting a losing battle. Free speech cannot be beaten into silence.” In a series of tweets in Turkish, the British ambassador to Turkey Richard Moore also denounced the “unacceptable” attack, saying: “No one should be threatened and subjected to violence.”
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the main opposition CHP, said: “It is our greatest desire that the government should take careful and coherent steps regarding these attacks aimed at the media.”
Some government officials also condemned the attack, with Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus saying: “The circumstances surrounding this attack will be brought to light with the utmost clarity.”
There has been growing concern about deteriorating press freedoms under Erdogan, in particular over the numbers of journalists facing legal proceedings on accusations of insulting top officials.
Tensions have risen further as the government wages a relentless campaign against Kurdish militants, with officials accusing critical journalists of taking the side of “terrorists”.