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Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan chairs a government meeting in Ankara, Turkey, on Oct. 25, 2018.The Associated Press

Ever since Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance from the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul at the beginning of October, the Turkish government and its compliant media have stage-managed the scandal.

It began with CCTV footage published by a Turkish newspaper two weeks ago that showed the respected journalist entering the consulate. The next day, more leaked security-camera photos showed the alleged assassins arriving at the Istanbul airport.

Virtually everything we have learned about the murder has come from Turkish media or President Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself.

In a widely broadcast speech this week, Mr. Erdogan used the occasion to lecture his rivals in Riyadh about transparency and pose as a protector of journalists. Amid the horror of Mr. Khashoggi’s slaying, Turkey is presenting itself as a model of respect for the rule of law.

That can’t be allowed to happen. The Erdogan regime stomps on the rights of ordinary citizens and shackles its press with legal attacks and financial coercion. It may try to launder its reputation by grandstanding through the Khashoggi affair, but Ankara is little better than Riyadh.

Mr. Erdogan has long displayed autocratic tendencies, but his descent into pure authoritarianism began after the country’s failed 2016 coup attempt, which the government blamed on followers of the cleric Fethullah Gulen. In the ensuing crackdown, tens of thousands of teachers, judges and government workers were purged.

Turkey has since become the world’s leading jailer of journalists. More than 150 members of the press have been imprisoned on bogus charges since the coup attempt, an estimated 2,500 have lost their jobs and some 180 media outlets have been shut down, according to the #FreeTurkeyMedia campaign.

The killing of Mr. Khashoggi was a uniquely shocking crime, and Turkey’s state-sanctioned account of the murder largely checks out. But Ankara’s treatment of journalists is appalling, too, even if the government has stopped short of outright butchery. Mr. Erdogan should get no credit for running a dungeon instead of an abattoir.

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