21:16 GMT22 April 2021
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    Continuing his crackdown on press freedoms, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, taking a page from the playbook of Donald Trump, has threatened to sue countrymen who insult him.

    In recent months, the Turkish president has engaged in the ever-increasing suppression of opposition media in Turkey. A trial of two high-profile Turkish journalists is currently underway in Istanbul.

    As part of a familiar pattern, Erdogan declared again that he would sue critics, during a stump speech in Washington, DC on Thursday.

    "I would [thank] each and every one of those who criticize me but if they were to insult me, my lawyers will go and file a lawsuit," he threatened.

    Can Dundar and Erdem Gul, journalists with the newspaper Cumhuriyet, have been charged with the Turkish form of sedition, after alleging that Ankara was moving arms into Syria. Erdogan said that Dundar would "pay a heavy price," and both journalists face life in prison if found guilty.

    In a statement, Human Rights Watch said the trial "is about putting journalism itself on trial and is one of the most flawed prosecutions in Turkey in recent times."

    Since coming to power in 2014, Erdogan has filed a jaw-dropping 1,845 cases against individuals who have insulted him. With a maximum sentence of four years in prison, dozens of sentences have been handed down through these trials.

    Advocacy group Protect Journalists describes Turkey as a "country of concern," suggesting that between 13 and 20 journalists are currently imprisoned for their work.

    While Erdogan, currently in Washington for the Nuclear Security Summit, has not left his authoritarian ways at home. On Thursday, clashes erupted between peaceful protesters and Turkish security personnel as Erdogan delivered a speech at the Brookings Institution in the capitol.

    "They didn’t want us to be protesting them, so they started to pull at us. They dragged me," protester Deniz Lohja told Sputnik.

    "What they told me is, if you were in Turkey, you know what would happen to you. The implication is, that if I went to jail, I knew what would happen to me as a woman."

    "We have a peaceful demonstration, they come here and then they threaten us. He used a very bad word he said…we are going to kill you," another protester told Sputnik.

    "It’s the United States, we have a right to protest…and we have a permit."


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    libel, freedom of the press, Brookings Institution, Donald Trump, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, US, Turkey
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