A prominent Turkish journalist critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government has been hospitalized after being assaulted and beaten outside his home in Istanbul after a columnist for a pro-ruling party newspaper threatened him.
Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for the daily Hürriyet newspaper and high-profile TV host for CNN Türk, was attacked and beaten along with his bodyguard shortly after midnight Oct. 1 by four men who had followed him home, the Istanbul-based newspaper said. Hakan was hospitalized with broken ribs and a broken nose.
Police have detained the four suspects involved in the assault, which Hürriyet's editor-in-chief said was "an organized, planned attack." Three of the four were members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) founded by Erdogan. The three were expelled from the party Oct. 2, Hürriyet reported.
The attack comes as Erdogan's government and supporters have been increasingly aggressive in their treatment of critics, including media outlets like Hürriyet that are part of the Dogan Media Group. Hürriyet's offices in Istanbul and Ankara were twice attacked in early September by stone-throwing, club-wielding AKP supporters. During the attacks, Abdurrahim Boynukalın, an AKP deputy, was caught on video saying he was thinking of going to Hakan's house to "wait" for him, Today's Zamen said.
Shortly after the attacks on the newspaper office, a columnist for the pro-AKP daily The Star issued a threat to Hakan. "We will crush you like a fly if we so wish," columnist Cem Kucuk wrote on Sept. 9, according to a report from the newspaper Today's Zamen. "It's only because we've been merciful up till now that you are still alive."
Turkish prosecutors have also launched a terrorism investigation into the Dogan Media Group after a pro-government newspaper accused Hürriyet of publishing uncensored photos of dead Turkish soldiers.
Press freedom in Turkey has deteriorated in recent months. In June, a Turkish reporter was charged with “insulting public officials” after she reported that eight prosecutors and a judge had received discounted homes from a government-owned real estate company. Three VICE news journalists were detained Aug. 27 after covering clashes between Kurdish PKK militants and Turkish forces. On Sept. 8, a Dutch freelance journalist was arrested and later deported reporting on Kurdish issues. A columnist for an independent daily was detained Sept. 18 and charged with being a member of a terrorist organization.
Turkey, a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is ranked 149 out of 180 on Reporters' Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index.