Turkey’s prime minister has accused international media of stirring unrest during the one-year anniversary of mass anti-government protests.
On Tuesday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan singled out CNN International, whose reporter was briefly detained live on air last Saturday while covering street clashes, accusing the network of spying.
“[CNN] doesn’t care about a free, impartial and independent press. They are assigned to work like spies,” Erdogan told members of his ruling AKP party in an apparent reference to the incident.
He called CNN’s Ivan Watson a “lackey” who had been “caught red-handed” trying to bring chaos to Turkey.
“International media organisations who came to Istanbul for provocative and exaggerated broadcasts were left empty-handed,” Erdogan said.
On Saturday, police violently dispersed demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara as they marked a year since the start of nationwide protests denouncing Erdogan’s authoritarian rule.
Riot police fired tear gas and water cannon at protesters on Istanbul’s side streets to prevent them reaching the city’s Taksim Square, the epicentre of last year’s uprising.
Last year’s wave of protests was sparked by government plans to uproot trees at Istanbul’s central Gezi Park and erect a shopping mall on the site.
At least eight people were killed and thousands were left injured during three weeks of unrest that followed.
Erdogan has branded demonstrators “extremists” and “looters” and accuses them of seeking to derail his government’s economic achievements over the last decade.