The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has defended his government’s efforts to control online speech, telling a press freedom conference: “I am increasingly against the Internet every day.”
Mr Erdoğan’s comments came during an “unprecedented” meeting with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Press Institute (IPI).
The meeting, which also included Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ, took place as the Turkish parliament voted on military action in Syria.
Turkey’s leaders "aggressively" defended its record on press freedom during the 90-minute conference, and criticised various media outlets for “polarising and distorting coverage of recent events” such as the Gezi Park anti-government rallies.
Local newspapers and major publications such as The New York Times and CNN International were among those slammed by officials, according to the CPJ.
"Media should never have been given the liberty to insult," Mr Erdoğan was quoted as saying during the 90-minute meeting.
He also expressed concern that criminal and terrorist organisations such as the Islamic State go online to recruit followers, saying he is "increasingly against" the internet.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's craziest quotes
Recep Tayyip Erdogan's craziest quotes
1/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Just a week before he was elected President, he called Erdogan Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent for 'The Economist', a "shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist" after she had asked an opposition leader whether "Muslim society is able to question" the authorities. "Know your place," Erdoğan said. "They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper. "And then they invite you to a TV channel owned by Doğan media group and you insult at a society of 99 per cent Muslims," he said he said according to Today's Zaman newspaper.
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2/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Turkish people are pictured chanting slogans during an anti-government protest on Taksim square in Istanbul, on 29 June, 2013. The protests were sparked by brutal police action against a local conservation battle to save Istanbul's Gezi Park, and soon turned into nationwide demonstrations against the government. Amid the protests - the worst in Turkey for years - Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements. We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
GURCAN OZTURK/AFP/Getty Images
3/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
During last year’s protests, activists used social media to organise and disseminate information. Several dozen tweeters were arrested following the protests, according to local media reports. Erdogan responded by calling the technology a "menace". "There is now a menace which is called Twitter," Erdogan said. "The best examples of lies can be found there. To me, social media is the worst menace to society," BBC New reported.
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4/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Not helping to allay accusations of authoritarianism, after Turkish police detained 49 people, including well-known business people and those close to the ruling party, Erdeogan ominously told reporter that Turkey "is not a banana republic" that can be affected by unnamed "operations", according to Today's Zaman newspaper. “People who are backed by the media and certain funders cannot change this country," he said. "People backed by certain dark gangs both inside and outside Turkey cannot mess with the country's path. They cannot change conditions in Turkey. Turkey is not a country that anyone can launch an operation into. The [Turkish] nation will not allow that. The [ruling Justice and Development Party] AK Party, which is governing this nation, will not allow this." "Those people, if they are confident, they should run in the elections and deal with the nation. We will not permit those people to have the reckoning they want outside the polls. Turkey is not a banana republic.”
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5/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Friends and relatives of the miners who died in an explosion at the Soma mine are pictured praying following the burial in Soma cemetery of the last body to be recovered from the mine in May 2014. At the time, the then-Prime Minister badly misjudged the Soma mining disaster, in which 301 workers died. He told the relatives of dead and dying miners that "these types of incidents are ordinary things", following allegations that the government had ignored safety concerns about the privately owned mine, the Guardian reported. In his defence, Erdogan recounted in a separate speech a list of mining disasters which occurred abroad, including a British disaster in 1862, and one in America "which has every kind of technology".
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6/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Palestinians pictured attending Friday noon prayers in a destroyed mosque that was hit by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City. As Prime Minister, Erdogan has condemned Israel, accusing it of deliberately killing Palestinian mothers and warned that the it would "drown in the blood it sheds." Speaking to thousands of supporters during a rally in Istanbul ahead of the 10 August election, Reuters reported him as saying: "Just like Hitler, who sought to establish a race free of all faults, Israel is chasing after the same target." "They kill women so that they will not give birth to Palestinians; they kill babies so that they won't grow up; they kill men so they can't defend their country ... They will drown in the blood they shed," he said.
7/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
Amid the worst protests in Turkey for years which had spread across dozens of cities last June, Erdogan accused demonstrators of being "arm-in-arm with terrorism," according to Reuters. A demonstration to halt construction in a park in an Istanbul square grew into mass protests against a heavy-handed police crackdown and what opponents called Erdogan's authoritarian policies. "This is a protest organized by extremist elements," Erdogan said before departing on a trip to North Africa. "We will not give away anything to those who live arm-in-arm with terrorism," he said.
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8/8 The Turkish President's craziest quotes
In March 2014, Erdogan accused a 15-year-old boy who died from injuries sustained in last year's anti-government protests of being linked to terrorism. Berkin Elvan, who became a symbol of anti-government protests, had gone to pick up bread when he was hit with a teargas canister - sending him into a nine-month coma before he passed away, BBC News reported. Following his death, riot police used water cannon, tear gas and rubber pellets to disperse tens of thousands of protesters who took to the streets of Turkey's largest cities chanting “Everywhere is Berkin, everywhere is resistance.” In a speech broadcast on state TV, Erdogan said of Berkin: "This kid with steel marbles in his pockets, with a slingshot in his hand, his face covered with a scarf, who had been taken up into terror organisations, was unfortunately subjected to pepper gas. “How could the police determine how old that person was who had a scarf on his face and was hurling steel marbles with a slingshot in his hand?”
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His remarks come after he approved a law tightening control of the internet and increasing the powers held by telecoms authorities earlier in September.
Earlier in the year, the President came under a storm of criticism for attempting to block access to Twitter and YouTube after users spread allegation of corruption ahead of elections.
However, the CPJ says the Turkish government did commit to taking steps to address concerns raised by the delegation, while the Ministry of Justice agreed to continue reform of ‘anti-press’ laws.
Video: Erdogan appears in front of fans as hologram earlier this year
"Although we disagree with government leaders on the role of news media, we are encouraged by their willingness to meet with us," said CPJ board Chairman Sandra Mims Rowe, who led the joint delegation.
"We welcome the commitments they made, and we believe officials recognise the depth of international concern."
The delegation included former editors, correspondents and representatives from Reuters, New York Newsday, Al-Jazeera and The Washington Post, among other organisations.