Hürriyet, a popular Turkish newspaper, is facing criticism for a pair of fake news articles it published this week. Social media users lashed out at the daily for publishing what they called a false story about hospitals earlier this week.
Just as the newspaper scrambled to defend it, it faced another scandal, when a staff member broke out a news story regarding the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on Friday, about the extension of mandatory military service.
The army denied the claims while the Hürriyet staff member who first circulated the story said he received a WhatsApp message bearing the army logo about the alleged extension.
Hürriyet was criticized in the past for its fake news targeting Muslims, especially before and after the 1997 coup in Turkey, which sought to oppress Muslims.Earlier last week, a story by Hürriyet correspondent Burak Coşan made waves on the social media and later in other newspapers. The story was about the alarming occupancy rate at "understaffed" emergency rooms in hospitals and it was accompanied by a short piece about cats casually roaming the emergency room of an Istanbul hospital.
However, security camera footage that circulated on the internet showing Coşan apparently forcing the cat to enter the emergency room raised eyebrows. Coşan defended himself saying he was actually chasing away the cat.
On Friday, Uğur Ergan, another Hürriyet employee, released a story on the newspaper's website about an "announcement" by the Chief of General Staff's Office that said the compulsory military service was extended to 18 months from the current 12 months.
Within minutes, the Turkish Armed Forces released a statement that said the "stories about the extension are completely baseless."
Writing a follow-up on the website, Ergan claimed he received a WhatsApp message showing a document with the logo of the Turkish Armed Forces and tried to shift the blame on other media outlets that published the same story after the Hürriyet website broke it first. "First, a cat in an emergency room, now an extension of military service, what's next in Hürriyet fake news?" a social media user tweeted, while another user criticized Ergan for "not verifying his sources" before running the false article about the military. Another user slammed Hürriyet for running a follow-up story which "implies how others were wrong without mentioning it was themselves that broke the story." A user questioned if the newspaper's website would publish "a fake story" he would send them via WhatsApp without verifying it first.