Turkey's Erdogan sues Fox TV anchorman for coronavirus social media post

Turkey's Erdogan sues Fox TV anchorman for coronavirus social media post
Fox TV anchorman Fatih Portakal is being sued by Turkey's president and the country's finance regulator for posts made on social media.
3 min read
07 April, 2020
Erdogan filed the complaint for 'spreading lies' online [Getty]
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is suing a Fox TV anchorman for saying Ankara might soon request its citizens pay toward efforts to combat the novel coronavirus.

Erdogan’s criminal complaint against Fatih Portakal accused the anchor of "spreading lies and manipulating the public on social media", state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday. 

He also faces a complaint from Turkey's banking regulator for allegedly targeting the country's banking and finance system, online.

Read also: Turkey detains 11 over 'coronavirus-themed' house party amid global pandemic

The legal action comes after Erdogan proposed century-old emergency measures on Monday to bolster a National Solidarity Campaign against the virus outbreak. This includes the 1921 National Tax Laws which allowed the state to seize 40 percent of all food, clothing and machinery.

"What if they ask for money from those who have deposits or savings by invoking the National Tax orders and saying, 'We are going through difficult days,'" Portakal tweeted afterward.

"What if they say they will pay it back after the coronavirus? I can't say that it won't happen, unfortunately."

Last week, Erdogan pledged to donate seven months of his salary towards the Covid-19 aid campaign.

The Turkish leader encouraged other politicians, citizens and businessmen to follow his lead, following a meeting with officials to discuss the Covid-19 pandemic.

"I am launching the campaign, personally, by donating my seven-month salary," Erdogan said in his address to the nation, according to state news agency Anadolu.

The Turkish economy was healing after a recession when the new coronavirus struck.

If left Ankara scrambling to contain the damage with stimulus measures worth billions of dollars, but still facing calls to do more.

Erdogan announced earlier this month a $15 billion package to support the economy, with tax cuts for businesses and measures to help low-income households.

While business leaders and analysts agreed Ankara's measures would benefit companies, experts warn that it could lead to high unemployment and low growth.

They also pointed out the possible devastating impact on tourism which employs hundreds of thousands of people.

The concern is that before the outbreak, the economy was growing only tentatively after a currency crisis in 2018.

Moody's ratings agency said among the G20, it expected Turkey "to be hit the hardest, with a cumulative contraction in second- and third-quarter GDP of about 7 percent" in 2020.

But as recently as 19 March, Finance Minister Berat Albayrak said he did "not see any risks to the economy for now" and was still aiming to meet the ambitious target of five percent growth for 2020.

"The shock will likely take a large toll on tourism-related sectors through the summer," Moody's added.

Last year, tourism income rose 17 percent to $34.5 billion while the number of visitors increased nearly 14 percent to about 52 million.

The Covid-19 virus, which was first detected in China's Wuhan in December, has killed more than 76,383 people worldwide, while over 1,363,123 infections have been confirmed.

The majority of those that infected with Covid-19 experience only mild or moderate symptoms, including fever and a dry cough.

There are still no known treatments for the virus, though more than 293,839 have already recovered from the infection.

Turkey has confirmed 30,217 cases of the virus which has so far killed 649 people in the country.

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