Turkish prosecutor says pro-gov’t think tank profiling of journalists is free speech

A Turkish prosecutor on Thursday dismissed a criminal complaint filed by journalism organisations accusing a government-linked think tank of blacklisting journalists in a report on foreign media outlets in the country, news site Diken reported.

The report of the Foundation for Economic, Political and Social Research (SETA), one of Turkey's most influential pro-government policy think tanks, was published last month. The think tank listed foreign news networks with Turkish services, such as BBC and Deutsche Welle, as well as the Turkish journalists who work for them, sharing detailed information about their past work and social media posts.

SETA’s report suggested that foreign media outlets and the journalists they employ purposefully report against Turkish interests on several topics such as the 2016 failed coup attempt and the continuing Kurdish question.

Following the release of the report, Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), a non-profit organisation working in the areas of civil society, media and judiciary, filed a criminal complaint demanding an inquiry in the report.

The Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office ruled that the report falls under the right to freedom of expression.

"Ironically, the court ruled the report is within the freedom of expression, given that the same prosecutors routinely prosecute journalists doing their jobs, accusing of them baseless terror-related offences," Diken quoted MLSA co-director Veysel Ok as saying.

The prosecutor's office believes that the right to freedom of expression can only be exercised by media outlets and organisations affiliated by the government, Ok said.

Freedom of the press has been on the decline in Turkey under the ruling Justice and Development Party government. Hundreds of journalists have been accused of having links to terrorism, and Turkey remains "the world’s leading jailer of journalists", according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.