According to Champion, Erdogan had filed 57 libel suits by 2005, just two years after taking office. He won 21 of the cases, netting a total 700,000 Turkish Lira, or about $440,000, in compensation. An excerpt:
Since then, the government has refused to answer further questions on the matter. It said that whomever Mr. Erdogan sues—under article 125 of the Turkish penal code—is a private affair. The law criminalizes insults against a person's honor, differentiating such barbs from other protected free speech. Guilty parties face a maximum penalty of two years in jail.The article goes on to document a few recent libel suits the prime minister has filed, including the one against the Milliyet cartoonist who depicted him as a cat tied up in yarn, as well as another involving a theater troupe and the case against British citizen Michael Dickinson, who drew the prime minister's head on a dog's body.
Mr. Erdogan's spokesman didn't respond to several phone and email requests for comment.
Fikret Ilkiz, a prominent Turkish press freedom lawyer, says the frequency with which the prime minister's lawyers launch insult suits on his behalf has increased since 2005. By now the tally is "in the hundreds," he estimates, and has triggered a boom in lawsuits launched by cabinet ministers and legislators. Mr. Ilkiz added that previous prime ministers rarely used article 125.
While the prime minister seem to have problems dealing with criticism, however tasteless or disrespectful it might be, he has no problems dishing it out. Erdogan recently called Milliyet journalist Nuray Mert "despicable" for having written that new roads the government is building in the southeast will facilitate security operations and threatened another journalist, Abbas Guclu, for tying the prime minister to a scandal involving Turkey's university entrance exam. In regard to Guclu, Erdogan said the journalist would "pay the price" for his allegations. For a litany of such allegations, see Sedat Ergin's recent column (in Turkish) in Hurriyet.
UPDATE I (6/9) -- Another example (from Milliyet, in Turkish) of the prime minister's thin skin was displayed when Erdogan accused Taraf columnist Ahmet Altan of insulting him after the columnist said he would not be voting for the AKP on Sunday.