Spokesperson for the Istanbul Municipality offered a reluctant confession on a national TV about an infamous “packed bus” incident after which mayor Ekrem Imamoglu and pro-opposition journalists pointed pretty heavy accusations including being militants and traitors to the passengers.
On March 24, images from a packed bus on an early Sunday morning circulated the social media, accusing Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoglu of not providing enough transportation in the city during coronavirus pandemic. Both Imamoglu administration and the pro-opposition media quickly labeled the incident as an organized attempt of Ak Party supporters to tarnish the main opposition-run city administration. Istanbul municipality claimed that a cctv footage confirmed 47 people getting on to the bus number 62 from a single stop and therefor it was an organized conspiracy.
“I was horrified when I watched the footage,” said Ekrem Imamoglu on the most popular morning news show repeating the claim that 47 people entering the bus from a single stop was indeed recorded. His close aid and city’s spokesperson Murat Ongun also carried on with the same “organized crime” rhetoric.
Pro-opposition journalists went berserk after the incident making pretty heavy accusations to the Istanbulites on that bus including calling them militias and traitors. One of the most ardent supporters of Imamoglu, journalist Ismail Saymaz said it was an organized conspiracy. Anchor of Fox Haber, Turkish affiliation of Fox Network, Fatih Portakal went a step ahead and called the passengers on the bus militants. Nevsin Mengu whom has been working for German Deutsche Welle called the passengers trolls while another pro-opposition journalist called them traitors.
Following all the accusations and claiming that 47 people oddly entering the bus on a early Sunday morning was under surveillance, Istanbul municipality pressed charges against those who circulated the pictures on social media. However, charges were later dropped because the city could not provide the single piece of evidence that it claimed existed.
Another journalist, Kenan Kiran has been closely following the unfolding crisis from the start. He posted several messages on his Twitter account saying Imamoglu and his aid Ongun have been lying about the incident from the start and calling on Ongun to resign.
Almost two months after the incident, Murat Ongun went on TV to refute his administration’s claim that the whole incident was an organized crime of Ak Party supporters to tarnish Imamoglu and his administration. “Was it mistake to claim all those people entered the bus at one stop. It was. But the information I received was that way,” Ongun reluctantly confessed. Ongun said it was the reason why the city did not objected to prosecution for dropping the charges.