Turkish journalist beaten with baseball bats after anti-Erdogan TV appearance

Just hours after criticizing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a television appearance Friday, journalist Yavuz Selim Demirag became the victim of a vicious baseball bat attack by unknown assailants, his newspaper said Saturday.

The Yenicag newspaper columnist Yavuz Selim Demirag was allegedly hammered by five or six people outside his home, and he was later rushed to hospital with lacerations all over his face and body.

The attackers are said to have fled in a vehicle and have not been arrested.

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While the motive or instigators behind the onslaught are not yet clear, it comes at a time when tensions are soaring amid the contested mayoral election in the nation’s largest city, Istanbul.

Yavuz Selim Demirag, a Turkish journalist critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and its nationalist allies, shakes hands with visiting Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, second left, as he rests in a hospital bed in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, May 11, 2019. Yenicag newspaper says Saturday columnist Demirag was beaten by a group of about five or six people with baseball bats outside his home after appearing on a TV show late Friday.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

Yavuz Selim Demirag, a Turkish journalist critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and its nationalist allies, shakes hands with visiting Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, second left, as he rests in a hospital bed in Ankara, Turkey, Saturday, May 11, 2019. Yenicag newspaper says Saturday columnist Demirag was beaten by a group of about five or six people with baseball bats outside his home after appearing on a TV show late Friday.(AP Photo/Burhan Ozbilici)

While the electoral commission last month announced that CHP party candidate Ekrem Imamoglu had won the March 31 race, beating out Erdogan’s ruling AKP party candidate Binali Yıldırım, the decision was reversed last week by the government, which cited “irregularities.”

A new vote has been slated for June 23.

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Moreover, the attack comes at a time when press freedom in Turkey has come under intense scrutiny.

“Politicians who have difficulty espousing the idea of freedom of media and of expression and turn newspapers and journalists into targets, play an important role in these types of attacks,” Turkey’s Journalist Association said in a statement.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey is the world’s worst jailer of journalists, with at least 68 in jail in direct relation to their work.

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Yenicag reported that Demirag’s condition over the weekend was stable and he was expected to be released Sunday.

The Associated Press contributed to this report