Erdogan is a favorite to win Turkey’s presidential election this Sunday and was speaking against Zaman, a writer for The Economist and the Turkish daily Taraf, after she had asked the main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a televised debate whether any Muslim society was capable of challenging its authorities.
"A militant in the guise of a journalist, a shameless woman. … Know your place!" Erdogan declared in response without mentioning Zaman by name, as reported by Agence France Presse (AFP).
"They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper,” he said, “and you insult a society that is 99 percent Muslim.”
According to the AFP, Zaman said in her column that she had been “the target of a smear campaign by pro-government media outlets, who had called her a "Jewish bitch" who should become a "concubine" of Islamist jihadists in Iraq.”
The Economist stood by Zaman in a statement released Thursday.
“Ms Zaman has been The Economist's correspondent in Turkey for 15 years and is widely respected; we stand firmly by her and her reporting,” they said. “The intimidation of journalists has no place in a democracy.”
“Under Mr Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly difficult place for independent journalism,” said The Economist. Freedom House, a New York-based media watchdog, recently downgraded the country from “partially free” to “not free.”
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatovic , expressed concern over the incident saying in a statement, “I am alarmed by the latest example of intimidation of and threats towards journalists in Turkey.”
“Critical ideas are indispensable elements of democratic debates, and they need to be safeguarded and not attacked by the authorities,” she said.
She added that "The widespread smear campaign against Amberin Zaman threatens her safety."