Jul 07 2019

Turkish press union to file criminal complaint against think tank for 'blacklisting' journalists

A Turkish press union and NGO have announced they will file a criminal complaint against a report by a pro-government think tank, which they say "blacklisted" journalists working with international media. 

The Journalists'​ Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), an NGO offering journalists legal protection, is preparing to take legal action against the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), a think tank with close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling party, over its recent report on foreign media, independent news site T24 reported.

Several journalists, foundations and journalism unions have denounced the report published by SETA on Saturday for criminalising journalism by using intelligence gathering tactics.

The report titled "The Turkey extensions of the international media organisations" covers detailed information on numerous prominent news sources, including BBC Turkish, Deutsche Welle Turkish and Euronews.

The SETA report examines the foreign media outlets from their foundation up until today. The detailed information on each journalist as well as commentator include resumes and examples of social media posts. The report details not only posts of those journalists on social media, but also their retweets and the people who retweeted their posts.

The report created an outcry on social media with critics accusing SETA of targeting the journalists by adopting the methods used by the Turkish police for intelligence gathering.

Nevzat Çiçek, a journalist who works for the newly established The Independent Turkish, said the report was reminiscent of media memorandums prepared by the Turkish military in 1990s.

Erol Önderoğlu, the Turkey representative of the press freedom group Reporters Without Borders (RSF), said on Saturday that the organisation condemned those responsible for the report.

"Bu using the word “extension”, the so-called report of SETA displayed clearly the intolerance against the staff of international media outlets by making them a target," Önderoğlu said.

The Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DİSK) said those who had prepared the report, who had ordered and published it were responsible for any incident that might happen to journalists targeted by the report.

Ahval editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar said on Twitter that the report aimed to blacklist journalists and criminalise the profession of journalism.

The Journalists' Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Turkish Journalists' Association (TGC) should file a criminal complaint against the report, Baydar added.

The TGS said the report was not worth even tweeting about it, and they were not afraid of any threats.

Journalist Banu Güven said on Twitter that the SETA made a mistake by preparing an "enquiry" against journalists.

"You made lots of mistakes but you would not care those mistakes anyway" said the journalist, who was cited in the report for her commentaries in DW Turkish.

Another journalist, Murat Yetkin, told news site Duvar that the report was a "provocation" to encourage for increasing the suppression on media. According to Yetkin those who prepared the report might have been aiming to push the government to ban those news outlets by putting pressure on other governments.

Journalist Fatih Polat, the editor-in-chief of the left-wing Evrensel newspaper, said the report threatens journalist working for foreign media in Turkey.

"If there would be a fair jurisdiction in the country, the journalists who are being criminalised (in the report) would definitely win the lawsuit (against those who prepared the report," Polat said, "This is an explicit crime."

İsmail Çağlar, the head of SETA research team that prepared the 220-page report defended it on Twitter by saying it was based on information that had been collected by using open resources.

“If there are any mistakes in the report, share with us, we will correct it and apologise. The rest is your ideological opinions, they do not interest us,” he said.