Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan filed a criminal complaint against a Fox TV anchorman for suggesting the government might require citizens to dig into their bank accounts to help battle the coronavirus fallout.
The president sued Fatih Portakal for “spreading lies and manipulating the public on social media,” state-run Anadolu Agency reported on Tuesday. The nation’s banking regulator also filed a complaint against Portakal for social media posts about the Turkish banking and finance system.
On Monday, Erdogan alluded to century-old emergency measures when calling for a national solidarity campaign against the virus outbreak. The so-called National Tax Laws imposed during Turkey’s War of Independence in 1921 allowed the government to seize 40% of all food, clothing and machinery, he recalled.
“What if they ask for money from those who have deposits or savings by invoking the National Tax orders and saying, ‘We are going through difficult days,’” Portakal tweeted afterward. “What if they say they will pay it back after the coronavirus? I can’t say that it won’t happen, unfortunately.”
Turkey so far has only asked for donations to the cause.
Authorities have detained 229 people over the past three weeks for “provocative” social media posts about the pandemic, according to the Interior Ministry. In a Twitter post, the ministry said 3,576 social media accounts have been examined and 616 suspects identified.
The number of confirmed virus cases rose to 30,217 on Monday, including 649 deaths.
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