“Terror propaganda” is not towing Turkish line on Afrin

Turkish journalists are accused of terrorist propaganda if they do not tow the government’s line in their coverage of a military incursion into Syria’s Afrin, the Economist reported citing analysts and journalists.

Objective reporting of the conflict has become impossible due to the threat of government sanctions and court hearings. Media bosses also face losing lucrative government contracts should they contradict government directives, the Economist said.

News organisations now race to report the latest Turkish gains in Afrin and the number of People’s Protection Units (YPG) “terrorists” killed by the military, while ignoring reports of civilian deaths, the magazine said.

The media’s approach to covering the hostilities was defined at a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım at the start of the conflict, which began on Jan. 20. Yıldırım instructed more than a dozen editors from the country’s leading news outlets to “bear in mind Turkey’s national interests” and said news published by foreign media was to be treated with caution, because it was likely to contain “terrorist propaganda”.

“News stories have tended to be no more than a blend of government talking points and army communiqués,” the Economist said. “When Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, threatened to give American troops embedded with the Kurds elsewhere in Syria “an Ottoman slap”, no fewer than 16 newspapers featured his words on their front pages the following day.

Turkey’s army says it has “neutralised” more than 2,000 YPG fighters in Afrin without killing a single civilian. “Not a single mainstream media outlet has questioned the figures,” said the Economist.

Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists, with over 100 currently behind bars.

“All news of civilian casualties is considered as false or as terrorist propaganda,” says Kadri Gürsel, a veteran Turkish journalist who was jailed for several months on charges of aiding a terrorist group before his release in October. “There’s a blackout.”