The International Press Institute (IPI) condemns the attack on February 23 on Turkish columnist Memduh Bayraktaroğlu in apparent retaliation for a tweet about the chairman of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahçeli. IPI calls on Turkish authorities to investigate the attack on Bayraktaroğlu and protect the journalist from any further threats.

Bayraktaroğlu’s home was attacked by a group of five or six people with covered faces and sticks yesterday around 11 pm. The individuals reportedly posed as delivery men from a flower shop. Bayraktaroğlu asked for further information on the delivery such as the sender or the phone number of the florist. The “delivery men” did not provide the information and instead started kicking the door and trying to forcibly enter the house. Bayraktaroğlu called the police, which scared the intruders, and they left the premises running. Shortly after, the police arrived to help.

The attack came after Bayraktaroğlu published a tweet containing a joke about Bahçeli and the number 69 on February 22. A leader of the far-right group Grey Wolves, Ahmet Yiğit Yıldırım, responded with a tweet saying: “You Dog! We will put you into all types of exams and then explain them to you in the language you’ll understand, and will walk you through streets with a leash on your neck – have no doubt of it.”

“IPI condemns the attack on Memduh Bayraktaroğlu and we call on the Turkish authorities to find those responsible and hold them to account”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said. “Turkey must make clear that violence against journalists is unacceptable.”

In recent years, physical and legal attacks on journalists in Turkey have drastically increased. In 2021 alone, 241 journalists faced trials on charges that included insulting the president or terrorism, 28 of whom were convicted. Last week, Güngör Arslan, the owner and managing editor of the local Ses Kocaeli newspaper, was murdered. The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) partners including IPI called for swift and thorough investigation into Arslan’s murder.