Turkey TV anchor's 'killing civilians' remark sparks outrage

Ahmet Keser says he would start in predominantly secular areas of Istanbul if he intended to kill civilian 'traitors'.

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    Opposition MPs have appealed to Turkish media authority and prosecutors over Keser's comments [YouTube]
    Opposition MPs have appealed to Turkish media authority and prosecutors over Keser's comments [YouTube]

    A Turkish conservative news anchor has caused outrage with televised comments he made while criticising claims that civilians were being killed in Turkey's ongoing offensive in northern Syria. 

    In his morning show on national Akit TV, Ahmet Keser said he would start in the predominantly secular neighbourhoods of Istanbul and the Turkish parliament if he intended to kill what he called civilian "traitors".

    "[Claim is that] the army of Republic of Turkey is killing civilians … Why would it? Why would army of Turkey be there if there were civilians there? Why would the army of Turkey go there to kill civilians?" Keser said.

    "If [we] had the intention to kill civilians, we would have started doing it from Cihangir, Nisantasi, Etiler, Right? I mean there are lots of traitors, there is the Turkish parliament."

    Cihangir, Nisantasi and Etiler are among Istanbul's predominantly secular neighbourhoods, where critical sentiment against Turkey's conservative government remains high.

    Keser's comments about the Turkish parliament were apparently targeting the parties opposing to the government.

    Turkey's army and officials have repeatedly denied that civilians were killed in the operation in Afrin, which was launched in January against the Kurdish fighters who Turkey sees as "terrorists".

    Baris Yarkadas, an opposition MP, announced on Twitter that he appealed to Turkey's media authority RTUK to punish Keser over the comments. 

    Eren Erdem, another opposition MP, also announced through a tweet that he has taken the issue to prosecutors, accussing Keser of inciting hatred.

    The anchor's comments caused a stir on Turkish social media, with many condemning Keser for threatening parliament and secular Turks.  

    'Alarming'

    Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's senior adviser on Turkey, said there has been an increase in such rhetoric in the country, which he called "alarming".

    "Everyone has a right to express their opinions, this is a fundamental right. But inciting to violence is something different and it is on the rise in Turkey. This is harmful for human rights and harmful for the society," he told Al Jazeera.

    He added that the government officials should act responsibly by avoiding such statements themselves and refrain from encouraging others to use rhetoric inciting violence.

    "There are laws preventing hate speech in Turkey. However, when we look at the issue of investigations and prosecutions in the country, we see that minority, opposition or alternative opinions - opinions not shared by the government - are prosecuted," Gardner said.

    Targeting dissidents

    Akit's television and newspaper are known to make targets out of dissidents, be them politicians, activists, media outlets and journalists.

    The newspaper last week used the word "degenerates" and "of bad stock" for Dutch politicians with Turkish ethnicity who reportedly voted for a bill to recognise 1915 massacre of Armenians as "genocide" by the hands of the Ottomans.

    Turkey denies the "genocide" claims, arguing that it was a collective tragedy in which people from both sides died.

    Turkey - together with the Syrian opposition Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebel group - last month launched an air-and-ground operation into Afrin in the northwest of Syria to vanquish the US-backed Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) fighters near its border.

    Turkey considers the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) in Syria and its armed wing YPG to be "terrorist groups" with ties to the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

     The PKK has waged a decades-long armed fight against the Turkish state that has killed tens of thousands of people.

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter: @Um_Uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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