The recent indictment from the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor office alleges that Gülenist-tied GPlus Europe consultancy contacted The Economist and Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in efforts to publish articles as part of a defamation campaign against Turkey.
The Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office's recent bill of indictment, ‘‘Parallel State Structure,'' cites the Gülen Movement led by cleric Fettullah Gülen as the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ). Ankara sees the Gülenists as a threat to national security because it infiltrated state institutions to overthrow the elected government. According to the indictment, in 2014 the Gülenists signed an agreement with GPlus Europe's Brussels office in efforts to conduct a smear campaign against Turkey in Western countries. The report revealed that during the Gülenists' meetings with GPlus Europe, Jean-Christophe Filori, former head of the Turkey unit at the European Commission's Directorate General for Enlargement, and Peter Stano, a former spokesman for the EU Commission for Enlargement and European Neighborhood Policy, were also present.
The indictment stated: "The results of the presidential elections, then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's remarks concerning a ‘new Turkey' and new AK Party members have been evaluated as very dangerous by the Gülenists and EC officials Filori and Stano during their meetings; and they have expressed their negative views about the new cabinet that is to be formed in Turkey. The lobbying company officials that have been mentioned are planning to share their thoughts on Turkey with the Turkey editor of The Economist as well as with Wall Street Journal officials."
In line with the indictment are a significant number of articles and op-eds published in The Economist and WSJ since 2014 that give a negative portrayal of President Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party. The Economist has earned a reputation for its staunch AK Party opposition, and the weekly has made many allegations against President Erdoğan and the ruling AK Party, even advising voters in the previous elections to support opposition parties. Most recently, on Sept. 20, The Economist openly urged Turkish voters to vote against the AK Party in the upcoming Nov. 1 general elections and stand strong against President Erdoğan, while labeling Turkey's first publicly elected president a "sultan." The Economist also accused Erdoğan of trying to maximize the AK Party's chances by "torpedoing the peace process with the country's Kurds" in the hope of decreasing votes for the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).
Likewise, the WSJ also increased its critical tone after 2014. In Sept.13, 2014, the paper claimed in an editorial that it is an "unavoidable conclusion" that the U.S. needs to find a better regional ally than Turkey to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State (ISIL), suggesting that the air base Turkey is currently hosting should be moved somewhere else.
Further, the WSJ has made misleading claims regarding Turkish domestic policy. In an editorial published on March 30, the journal claimed Turkey's recently passed domestic security reforms brought "new restrictions on freedom of speech and assembly" and that its provisions were "vague enough to ensnare nonviolent protesters." In response to the editorial, "Erdoğan's Assault on Freedom," Turkey's ambassador to the U.S., Serdar Kılıç, sent a letter to the WSJ editor rejecting the criticisms. "The editorial, entitled "Erdoğan's Assault on Freedom," contains misleading information on the intent and purpose of the new legislation, which was designed to enhance public safety in Turkey," said Ambassador Kılıç in a letter to the daily's editor, published on April 9. The editorial said the bill allowed police to open live fire on protesters carrying "injurious" weapons. However, under the new rules, law enforcement officers may only use weapons "against those who attack schools, public buildings and places of worship with Molotov bombs, explosives, inflammable materials and weapons," as is the case in the EU, said Kılıç in the letter.