Prominent Turkish journalist attacked in latest sign of pressure on media

ANKARA - A prominent Turkish journalist was hospitalised after an attack by unknown assailants outside his home, his newspaper said on Thursday, in the latest sign of deteriorating conditions for the media under President Tayyip Erdogan.

Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for Turkey's leading secular Hurriyet newspaper and a host on broadcaster CNN Turk, was followed home from the television station by four men in a black car late on Wednesday, before being assaulted near his residence, according to Hurriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin. "We see that it was an organised, planned attack," Ergin was quoted as saying in Hurriyet Daily News.

Hakan was treated for a broken nose and ribs, the newspaper said. The attack comes just weeks after prosecutors launched an investigation into the paper's owner, Dogan Media Group , for alleged "terrorism propaganda".

Last month, pro-government mobs attacked Hurriyet offices, accusing the newspaper of sympathising with the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) insurgent group.

Hurriyet has been singled out for criticism from Erdogan as the government struggles to control a surge in Kurdish militant violence in the southeast.

Tensions have been further ratcheted up after Erdogan's ruling AK Party lost its parliamentary majority in June general elections, and failed coalition talks prompted a snap election, due November 1.

In an initial reaction, a senior AKP official denounced the attack. "Turkey is democracy, there is a state of law. We do not approve of or accept this attack," Ayhan Sefer Ustun told Reuters.

Dogan Media and its listed parent Dogan Holding are no strangers to Erdogan's ire. In May, the group was suspended from state tenders after Erdogan accused its head, Aydin Dogan, of being a "coup lover" and described its media columnists as"charlatans".

Turkey has dropped down press freedom league tables under Erdogan, currently ranking 149th out of 180 in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index.

On September 15 the group warned of a "dangerous surge in censorship" which could worsen current tensions.