What happened when a journalist asked Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he was a dictator

What happened when a journalist asked Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan if he was a dictator

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan was placed in the unusual position of being asked a critical question by a journalist on Tuesday afternoon.

At a press conference alongside his Finnish counterpart in which he addressed the terrorist attack on the capital, Ankara, in public for the first time, the authoritarian president was asked by a reporter if he was a dictator.

Today's Zaman correspondent Abdullah Bozkurt, who was also at the press conference, reports that the Finnish journalist, named elsewhere as Yle News' Tom Kankkonen, asked Erdogan:

People are afraid of you. There are people who say you're a dictator. What do you say to that?

Here was the president's response:

After enquiring as to the reporter's newspaper, Erdogan went on to say:

If I was a dictator, you would not be able to ask this question.

The president had remained largely silent following the attack on Saturday, suspected to have been carried out by Isis suicide bombers, apart from a brief written statement.

Zia Weise, writing for The Independent from Ankara, reports that the government has banned the publication of images from the aftermath of the bombing and that the investigation into it is so secretive that even defence lawyers are restricted from seeing some of the evidence.

Erdogan, who previously ruled as prime minister from 2003, became president of the country last year.

Erdogan (r) welcomes president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, to Ankara in January

Although he was initially elected on a moderate ticket, his ruling AK Party has become increasingly right-wing, with attacks on civil liberties and press freedoms becoming increasingly common.

Social media networks have come under attack from the government, with users reporting outages in the aftermath of Saturday's attack as well as on several other occasions in the past. Twitter reports that the Turkish government makes more content removal requests than any other in the world.

Today's Zaman also reports that members of the press in Turkey have to go through a "two-year long accreditation system that is designed to keep critical journalists out of press conferences" - hence the president not being asked tough questions very often.

President Erdogan (3rd l) and Finland's president Sauli Niinisto (c) and their wives lay flowers during a ceremony at the site of the weekend bombings in Ankara (Picture: Getty)

Reporters Without Borders rates Turkey 149th out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom and journalists - such as Dutch reporter Frederike Geerdink or Vice News' Mohammed Rasool - are regularly detained on spurious charges.

Since the bombing, protests have been held against the president ahead of elections due to take place in November.

Erdogan's opponents argue that his government did not do enough to protect its people from one of the country's biggest ever terrorist attacks on Saturday which killed 97 people.

Police have dispersed protesters using tear gas - as well as water cannon in the past. The president maintains his country has the freest press in the world...

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