Thu, 24 Oct 2019

Istanbul - Two Bloomberg reporters appeared in a Turkish court on Friday accused of trying to sabotage the economy with an article about last year's currency crisis.

They were among dozens of defendants, including some who had simply written jokes about the currency crisis.

The Bloomberg article was published in August 2018 on a dramatic day when the lira lost around a fifth of its value against the dollar. It said Turkey's banking regulator agency, known as the BDDK, would hold an emergency meeting.

"For the BDDK to call a meeting was normal... I hardly understand why our story has received such a reaction," Kerim Karakaya, one of the journalists, told the court.

He faces trial along with his colleague Fercan Yalinkilic.

'We are all toast'

Conspiracy theories are widely believed in Turkey, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has often stoked suspicions of the foreign media, saying they are trying to undermine the country.

Others in court appeared shocked to be facing trial over throwaway comments.

"If me and the others in this room can ruin the economy with tweets, then we are all toast," said one of the defendants, Halit Tokkus.

Erol Onderoglu, of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), who was attending the trial, said it "illustrates a new and worrying tendency that targets the coverage of economic affairs".

He highlighted other recent cases, including a local journalist, Cengiz Erdinc, who was convicted recently of "damaging the reputation" of public bank Ziraat.

In July, the government-linked SETA think tank in Istanbul published a report listing certain Turkish journalists working foreign media, accusing them of using "anti-government language".

RSF described the report as an "intimidation attempt" that "brings the harassment of foreign media correspondents to a new level".

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