Turkey hits back at Swiss tabloid for article calling president a 'dictator'
The Zurich-based tabloid Blick made Turkish television on Monday night when the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan held up an edition of the Swiss paper with the front-page headline ‘Vote no to Erdogan’s dictatorship’.
The article in German and Turkish called for Turks in Switzerland to vote no in the April 16th referendum which, if successful, would give more powers to Erdogan.
The article caused a sensation in Turkey, wrote Les Observateurs, with some comparing Blick to the Nazis.
And the paper’s stance did not go down well with the Turkish president and his foreign ministry, whose ambassador sent a strongly worded statement to Blick condemning the article that it said was “filled with insulting words against our president”.
In the statement, which Blick published in full on Tuesday, the Turkish authorities slammed the “biased and prejudicial attitude” of the paper towards the referendum and the “offensive words” used towards Erdogan.
“We expect steps will be taken to make amends for the lack of respect shown to our president,” finished the statement.
According to Blick, the Swiss foreign office refused to comment on what Blick sees as “Turkish interference in press freedom”.
The spat comes two days after Turkey cancelled a proposed visit by its foreign minister to Zurich where he was due to drum up support for the referendum in a rally as part of Turkey’s campaign abroad.
However after the hotel hosting the event pulled out over security fears, Turkish authorities cancelled.
Speaking about the planned visit, Swiss foreign minister Didier Burkhalter said freedom of speech was a fundamental right and that the Turkish minister therefore had a right to express himself in a rally.
That’s in contrast to the Netherlands, which last week banned Turkish ministers from speaking at rallies there.
The move sparked a growing diplomatic crisis in Europe after Turkey responded with accusations of ‘Nazism’ and subsequently banned the Dutch ambassador to Turkey from returning to Ankara.
Turkish voters go to the polls on April 16th to decide if Erdogan should be given sweeping powers instead of the current parliamentary system.