The Washington Post was slammed on Wednesday for giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a platform on the eve of Turkey’s municipal elections, after video of the New Zealand attack was used at election rallies in Turkey.New Zealand has sent its foreign minister to Turkey, as the country seeks to confront Ankara for showing the footage. At the same time, Australia summoned the Turkish envoy after Turkey threatened to send home “in coffins” anyone who attacks the country, referencing the 1915 Gallipoli campaign.On March 19, The Washington Post titled "The New Zealand killer and the Islamic State are cut from the same cloth.” He argued that “the terrorists may have different ideologies but their attitudes are eerily similar.” However, the op-ed has been met with criticism because of its proximity to Turkish elections on March 31 and because Turkey’s ruling AKP party has been using the footage from the New Zealand attack at campaign rallies.Zia Weise, assistant news editor at Politico Europe, tweeted on Wednesday that “Erdogan, meanwhile, is using the Christchurch attack to distract from domestic issues ahead of next week’s local elections, broadcasting the attack footage at rallies to whip up nationalist/religious sentiment.” Christian Christensen, professor of journalism at Stockholm University, wondered why the newspaper would give the Turkish leader a platform on this issue. “He blatantly exploited the killings, violating the dignity of those killed, to score political points,” Christensen wrote. He also noted that Turkey is a leading jailer of journalists. “Pretty rich for Washington Post to give Op-Ed space to Erdogan, who has done so much to damage free speech and free press in Turkey,” he wrote.
“Shame on The Washington Post. Apparently its editorial board only cares about what happens in the ‘darkness.’ Erdogan is killing democracy in broad daylight,” wrote Endy Zemendis, executive director of the Hellenic American Leadership Council. The Post’s motto is “democracy dies in darkness.” Critics point to a contradiction between that slogan and the fact that Turkey, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, has jailed 68 journalists for their work.
Ankara also faces criticism from New Zealand and Australia amid this controversy. After the reference to “coffins,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison summoned the Turkish ambassador, saying it was “highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment.” It was upsetting to Australia, and the leader said he had “conveyed that in the strongest terms possible.”
At the same time, the New Zealand foreign minister was heading to Turkey to condemn the use of the video in the election rallies. Winston Peters was supposed to “confront” Turkey.
“He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Adern claimed.
In the past, Turkey has had numerous rows with foreign countries over nationalist comments, and in each of them the Turkish leader has tended to come out stronger in elections and recent referendums. For instance, in March 2017, Holland issued a travel warning for Turkey, after the Turkish leader said, “Nazism is still widespread in the West,” when several European countries tried to prevent Turkish political rallies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she supported Holland in the affair. Turkey’s leading party has benefited from fanning the flames of nationalism over relations with Israel, as well as other angry spats with European countries. In another case, a Turkish presidential bodyguard fought with peaceful protesters in Washington in May 2017. Last March, the US dropped charges against the bodyguard involved in the incident.