Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip ErdoganReuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday threatened Turkish media with legal action over content which is "incompatible with national and moral values," AFP reported, in a move seen by critics as an attempt to stifle dissent.

Erdogan also sacked his justice minister and the head of the state of the statistics agency after it published official data showing last year's inflation rate hit a 19-year high, the report said.

The Turkish leader said in a decree that "it has become requisite to take necessary measures to protect (families, children and the youth) against harmful media content."

He urged authorities to take "legal action" against the "destructive effects" of some media content -- without revealing what that would entail.

In an earlier decree on Saturday, Erdogan sacked state statistics agency chief Sait Erdal Dincer. The dismissal came after the 2021 inflation figure of 36.1 percent released by Dincer angered both the pro-government and opposition camps.

The opposition said the number was underreported, claiming that the real cost of living increases were at least twice as high.

Erdogan, meanwhile, reportedly criticized the statistics agency in private for publishing data that he felt overstated the scale of Turkey's economic malaise.

Also on Saturday, Erdogan appointed a new justice minister, naming former deputy prime minister Bekir Bozdag to replace veteran ruling party member Abdulhamit Gul who had been in the role since 2017.

Turkey has cracked down on dissent since a failed coup in July of 2016, with tens of thousands of people having been detained, suspended or sacked during that time.

Even before the failed coup attempt, Turkey has seen spiraling numbers of journalists, bloggers, and ordinary people - even schoolchildren - being taken to court on charges of insulting Erdogan and other top officials.

Examples include a 17-year-old teen who was charged with "insulting" Erdogan on Facebook, a Turkish philosophy professor who was accused of insulting Erdogan in an article in which he accused the president of corruption, and even the former Miss Turkey who was prosecuted for social media posts deemed to be critical of Erdogan.

In December of 2016, the head of a cafeteria at a Turkish opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper was detained for insulting Erdogan after saying he would refuse to serve him tea.

Erdogan in 2015 filed a criminal complaint against the Cumhuriyet newspaper and its editor for publishing images allegedly showing trucks belonging to the state intelligence service helping send weapons to rebels in Syria.

Turkey also regularly blocks access to websites and has in recent years tightened government control of the Internet and the judiciary, generating criticism from rights groups.