Erdogan and Obama met at a security
Erdogan and Obama met at a security summit in Washington on 1 April Getty

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused US President Barack Obama of criticising him behind his back about the Turkish government's crackdown on press freedoms.

On his return from a five-day trip to the US on 3 April, Erdogan told reporters that although Obama had criticised Turkey's campaign against an unregulated press in a public statement on Friday (1 April), he had not broached the topic when the two spoke face to face.

"I was saddened to hear that statement made behind my back. During my talk with Obama, those issues did not come up," Erdogan told reporters, according to Hurriyet. "You cannot consider insults and threats press freedom or criticism."

Turkish authorities have seized control of several opposition newspapers in recent months, with Zaman beginning to publish pro-government stories the day after government officials took control of it. Turkey has also drawn international condemnation for prosecuting two journalists from Cumhurriyet newspaper for publishing footage showing Turkish authorities transporting weapons to Syrian rebel groups in 2014.

At a security summit in Washington on Friday Obama said he had urged Erdogan not to stifle democratic debate. "I think the approach they have been taking toward the press is one that could lead Turkey down a path that would be very troubling," he said, speaking to reporters at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit.

It is not just Turkish publications that have come in for censure by authorities in Ankara, with officials recently summoning Germany's ambassador to Turkey after a satirical film mocking Erdogan was broadcast on German television.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz has also criticised Erdogan, saying it was "not acceptable that the president of another country demanded Germany limits democratic rights because he felt caricatured".