Turkish ambassador to Italy says media exaggerating protests

'Tourists can feel safe visiting Istanbul'

Turkish ambassador to Italy says media exaggerating protests

Rome, June 17 - Despite extensive news coverage of demonstrations and violence across Turkey, the country is quite calm and safe, Turkey's ambassador to Italy said Monday. Hakki Akil suggested news reporting has been exaggerated to the detriment of his country. "It's not fair to give wide coverage to the situation as if there was a civil war," Akil said outside an exhibition. The media is also unfairly focusing on demands from a few "marginal" demonstrators who say the Turkish government is undemocratic and must reform, he added. "Democratic standards in Turkey are not inferior to those of the West," said the ambassador. For almost three weeks, protesters have gathered in Istanbul and other parts of Turkey to demonstrate against the government and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who many say has become undemocratic. In response, Erdogan has ordered riot police to crack down on demonstrators, claiming they were being manipulated by "terrorists", the BBC is reporting. Trade unions have called a strike to protest against the police crackdown on demonstrators which has seen some 500 people arrested. Medical officials estimate that 5,000 people have been injured and at least four killed in the unrest, said the BBC. But Ambassador Akil said that he recently visited Istanbul, including Taksim Square, where protests began, "and did not see anything, it was all calm". "You can safely go in Turkey". He also defended the widely criticized police response to the protests, saying the use of force has been "proportional". (photo: a giant portrait of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan unveiled at a pro-government rally over the weekend)

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