Istanbul: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced a new outcry over his attitude to the media and women after he branded a prominent female journalist a "shameless woman" and told her "to know your place".
Just ahead of Sunday`s presidential election which he is clear favourite to win, Erdogan savaged Amberin Zaman, who writes for the Economist and the Turkish daily Taraf, over comments she made in a television debate.
She had asked the main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the debate whether any Muslim society was capable of challenging its authorities.
Erdogan lashed out at Zaman, without mentioning her directly by name, at an election rally in the eastern city of Malatya yesterday, calling her a "shameless woman".
"A militant in the guise of a journalist, a shameless woman... Know your place!" he declared.
"They gave you a pen and you are writing a column in a newspaper... and you insult a society that is 99 percent Muslim," he said, drawing loud boos from the crowd.
This is not the first time Erdogan has lashed out at journalists, who have come under increasing pressure in Turkey, which has more reporters behind bars than any other country in the world.
The government`s attitude towards women is also under heavy scrutiny, after Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc caused a furore by suggesting women should not laugh loudly in public.
The Economist released a statement in response to the salvo, saying "we stand firmly by" its correspondent of 15 years.
"The intimidation of journalists has no place in a democracy. Under Mr Erdogan, Turkey has become an increasingly difficult place for independent journalism," it said.
Zaman responded to Erdogan through her column in the Taraf newspaper, writing: "You are lynching a Muslim woman who described what you are doing. Because women are sitting targets, aren`t they?"
She said she had been the target of a smear campaign by pro-government media outlets, who had called her a "Jewish bitch" who should become a "concubine" of Islamist jihadists in Iraq.
The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) expressed concern over the targeting of the journalist, saying "the widespread smear campaign against Amberin Zaman threatens her safety".
"I am alarmed by the latest example of intimidation of and threats towards journalists in Turkey," OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic said in a statement.