Turkish opposition bloc election candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu on May 23 labelled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a "fabricator" after Turkey’s leader again referred to a doctored video when alleging that the opposition has links to the outlawed militant Kurdish group PKK.
The row comes ahead of the run-off election that will be contested by Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan on May 28.
Erdogan made his latest reference to the fake video – a DW fact-check revealed on May 8 that it splices footage from two separate videos of Kilicdaroglu and a Kurdish militant – in an interview with state broadcaster TRT late on May 22. He did so despite having been criticised by the opposition for showing the video at a rally earlier in his campaign.
Kilicdaroglu said in a tweet: "I am tired of being slandered, but he is not tired of slandering me."
Duvar reported on May 24 that police detained a man in Mersin province who filed a criminal complaint against Erdogan on the basis that the president was “inciting the public to hatred and provocation with fake montage videos, deceiving the public”.
Turkey’s elections are widely described as free but unfair. A big element of that is the ownership of the media in the country, which has almost entirely been taken over by business people loyal to Erdogan. Kilicdaroglu’s rallies get scarce TV coverage. Erdogan’s rallies, on the other hand, get huge TV coverage in live broadcasts.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey 165th out of 180 countries for press freedoms.
As part of his bruising election campaign – bne IntelliNews reported on April 29 how a top analyst was predicting that “Erdogan the demoniser and brutaliser” would emerge in the campaigning – regularly attempts to stir nationalist sentiment by suggesting there are links between the PKK and the opposition. But he never provides any evidence.
"Kilicdaroglu shot videos with terrorists in Qandil," Erdogan said in his interview on May 22, referring to a PKK base in Iraq's Qandil mountains. "Doctored or not, they shot videos with those in Qandil, and PKK members showed their support to Kilicdaroglu with videos," he said.
Kilicdaroglu, in his response on Twitter, described Erdogan as a "fraudulent [video] fabricator."
Reuters reported that scores of influential social media users also expressed their anger. "Montaj" (montage) was trending #4 on Twitter in Turkey on the afternoon of May 23.
Responding to Kilicdaroglu in a tweet, Fahrettin Altun, Erdogan’s communications director, accused him of insulting the president. The people would "teach a lesson" to those who insult Erdogan, he said.