Reports on Turkey’s communications director Altun ‘aim to discredit Turkey,’ says court

An Istanbul court has banned access to several news reports on Turkey’s Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, saying such articles aimed to shift focus from the country’s “success in the fight against coronavirus, despite many European countries failing.”

The articles included in the ban order detailed irregularities in Altun renting a valuable plot of land that belongs to Turkey’s Foundations Directorate for significantly lower than market price, about $ 40 as reported by Cumhuriyet newspaper, and reactions from the opposition on the matter.

“The access ban on 273 online articles, including (Cumhuriyet’s) report, ‘Outlaw in the Bosporus’ about the Presidency Communications Director Fahrettin Altun, is full of ‘creativity’,” Reporters Without Borders Turkey said in a tweet.

The articles aim “to conduct and direct society with unproven claims”, “to disrupt or obscure our country’s success in the fight against the global coronavirus pandemic despite many European countries’ failure”, and “to discredit the success of our nation and our state in the fight by diverting attention elsewhere via a regular event,” according to the court order.

“The natural agenda in our country and the world is the fight against the pandemic,” the order said. “As such, the news article has no newsworthiness,” it continued, adding that there was “no public good” in the articles’ publication, and that the reporters could have filed legal complaints instead, if there were an unlawful criminal activity in question.

One of the articles subject to the ban had quoted main opposition lawmaker Özgür Özel as saying an investigation by Istanbul’s chief public prosecutor attempted to charge reporters with “marking a person as a target for terrorist organisations.”

Özel had said on April 16 that the investigation “proved at the highest order that the government wants to use any and all excuses to include news articles it does not like in the scope of terrorism.”