Turkey may jail economy doom-mongers

Turkish courts may soon be able to jail economists and other persons who predict disaster for the country’s economy, according to a leading local columnist.

The government is planning legislation that would allow judges and prosecutors to criminalise such public predictions, Dilek Güngör wrote in Sabah newspaper this week.

People will receive a jail sentence of between six months and two years, or a fine of up to 5,000 liras ($870), for spreading “false, wrong and misleading information” concerning the general economy, the national currency and financial indicators that seriously impacts prices and values, Güngör said, citing the draft legislation. She did not say where she obtained the information.

Turkey has slammed some financial commentators, bankers, ratings agencies and foreign financial institutions for spreading negative propaganda about the economy. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son-in-law, Treasury and Finance Minister Berat Albayrak, have sought to depict last year’s currency crisis, which sent the lira to a record low, as a pre-meditated attack by foreign powers.

Many economists covering Turkey, particularly those based inside the country, have become reluctant to publish their true views due to criticism, or worse, by the government. Critical commentary on the economy in leading Turkish newspapers is now thread-bare after leading columnists stepped down or were forced out. 

In April, a Turkish court acquitted HSBC Turkey chief executive Selim Kervancı of charges that he insulted Erdoğan by retweeting a video depicting him as Adolf Hitler. The investigation of Kervancı began at the height of the currency crisis, when Erdoğan frequently accused foreign banks and governments of launching an attack on the country.

The proposed legislation was designed to silence critics while leaving unpunished government ministers who seek to mislead the public about the country’s economic prospects, Yalçın Karatepe, a columnist for the Birgün newspaper, said on Friday. Karatepe referred to estimates for economic growth and unemployment made by ministers over the past year that failed to come true.