ISTANBUL—Turkish authorities are blaming fake news for the recent plunge in the national currency’s value, with President
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
condemning “terrorists” haunting social networks and disseminating alleged disinformation.
The lira shed as much as 10% on Monday and is down more than 40% this year on heightening concerns that the country won’t be able to cope with rising borrowing costs and has yet to resolve a protracted dispute with its longtime military ally, the U.S.
Mr. Erdogan, who gained vastly expanded executive powers when he won re-election in June, has largely pinned the blame on the U.S., accusing Washington of engineering an economic war on Turkey.
But on Monday, though, he redirected his ire.
“There are economic terrorists on social media,” Mr. Erdogan told an audience of Turkish ambassadors gathered in Ankara’s presidential palace. “They are a genuine network of treason.”
The president said spiteful social-network posts had been spread in a bid to cause panic by saying authorities were preparing to limit bank withdrawals. The government said it had no plan to introduce capital controls.
Also on Monday, Turkey’s Interior Ministry said it would take legal action against owners of 346 social-media accounts identified as having been used to express views that had harmed the lira, the state-run news service, Anadolu Agency, reported.
Free-speech activists said Mr. Erdogan’s accusations had reinforced their fear that the government aimed at stifling dissent.
“We are concerned that the legitimate role of critical journalism is being targeted,” said
the representative of Reporters Without Borders in Turkey.
Some economists and analysts said part of Turkey’s woes stem from widespread and growing investor aversion to emerging markets. But they say the country has problems of its own, notably a central bank they no longer deem capable of acting independently.
With the bulk of Turkish media in the hands of owners loyal to Mr. Erdogan, Turkish people have been exposed to few explanations other than Mr. Erdogan’s for the country’s financial difficulties .
On Monday, pro-government daily newspaper Star ran a banner headline saying: “We saw what game was at play and we challenged it.”
Write to David Gauthier-Villars at David.Gauthier-Villars@wsj.com