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Media targeted as Erdogan bids for Turkey presidency

Candidates in Turkey's presidential election have wrapped up their campaigns amid a new controversy involving the frontrunner and a member of the media. Meanwhile, the editor-in-chief of a leading daily has resigned.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan

wrapped up his campaign on Saturday as the clear favorite to become Turkey's first directly elected, executive-style president.

In the hours before Turkey's 52 million eligible voters were to go to the polls in Sunday's vote, Erdogan found himself in a fresh controversy involving his attitude towards the media.

On Friday, The Economist magazine rejected Erdogan's criticism of the prominent female journalist Amberin Zaman, who also writes for the Turkish daily Taraf.

The Economist reported in a statement that it stood "firmly" by its correspondent of 15 years.

Turkey 'difficult' for journalism

"Under Mr. Ergogan, Turkey has become an increasingly difficult place for independent journalism," the statement said.

Zaman herself responded through her column in Taraf, writing: "You are lynching a Muslim woman who described what you are doing."

Erdogan had lashed out at Zaman on Thursday at a rally in the eastern city of Malatya, calling her a "militant in the guise of a journalist" and "a shameless woman" who had insulted Turkey's majority Muslim society. The prime minister

has made religion a centerpiece

of his campaign.

Zamar was also defended by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which reportd she had been threatened by a "widespread smear campaign."

In another twist on Friday, the chief editor of the mass-circulation Hurriyet newspaper, Enis Berberiglu, resigned. At campaign rallies, Erdogan had accused the publishing group Dogan Media of backing his electoral rivals.

Berberoglu himself has not commented publicly. Hurriyet has denied caving in to outside pressure.

Erdogan also tackles German news magazine

Erdogan has also accused Germany's Spiegel news magazine of fomenting chaos in Turkey. This came after Spiegel ran feature articles - in both German and Turkish - accusing Erdogan of rolling back democratic reforms.

Erdogan in the past has said the government has boosted press freedom since it first came to power 12 years ago.

Addressing supporters at a rally in Ankara on Friday, he called on loyalists to "explode ballot boxes on Sunday and deal a democratic slap" to his political opponents

The latest survey by the private Konda research institute predicted that Erdogan would win 57 percent of the vote in Sunday's first round of the election, meaning there would be no need for an August 24 runoff.

Erdogan's challengers in the election are Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the elderly ex-head of the Organization of Islamic Conference, who wants the presidency kept only as a symbolic post, and the Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, who campaigned on human rights issues.

The Konda survey gave Ihsanoglu 34 percent and Demirtas 9 percent support.

Close to 2.8 million

expatriate Turks

in 54 countries were eligible to cast early votes up until August 3. Less than 250,000 registered to do so.

ipj/pfd (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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