Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called The Economist correspondent Amberin Zaman a "shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist," at a campaign stop on Thursday in response to remarks the veteran journalist made during a TV interview.
Erdogan did not mention Zaman by name, but she was clearly the target of his comments, according to The Economist and local media.
On Wednesday, Zaman, who has reported from Turkey for 15 years, asked opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu whether a "Muslim society is able to question" authorities, during a TV interview, Turkey's Today Zaman reported.
The next day, Erdogan lashed out. "Know your place," Erdogan yelled at the campaign rally, according to Turkish outlet Today Zaman. "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 Dogan media group and you insult at a society of 99 percent Muslims." Erdogan was referring to Aydın Dogan, a media mogul and frequent critic of the prime minister.
Religion is a sensitive top for public discussion in Turkey; the constitution enshrines a separation between religion and politics, though critics of Erdogan allege that the prime minister's Justice and Development Party (AKP) is trying to erode the division.
The Economist defended its correspondent in a statement Thursday. "We stand firmly by her and her reporting. The intimidation of journalists has no place in a democracy. Under Mr Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly difficult place for independent journalism."
Erdogan is currently running for president after over 12 years as prime minister. The politician has repeatedly made what critics call outrageously aggressive comments towards journalists and social media users to garner populist support. After massive anti-government protests broke out in Turkey in 2013, the government initiated a media crackdown, harassing and arresting journalists for critical coverage while urging others to self-censor.