The Ankara-based Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA) has released a report over the weekend titled “Report: Turkey Extensions of International Media Outlets”.
The 202-page report caused reactions by journalism institutions. Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) strongly condemned it as an assault on journalism and Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS) said it will go to the court against it. There was an outrage on social media by journalists and writers who found the report’s content as denouncing, with a potential to provoke the government for more pressure on the independent media outlets.
The outrage was not in vain. First of all, Turkish reporters and correspondents working for international outlets were not called as such but were referred to as “extensions” by three authors of the report, none of them having any media experience. If not out of total ignorance about media jargon, this terminology can only be aiming to discredit journalists working for international outlets such as BBC, Deutsche Welle, Sputnik, Voice of America, Euronews and CRI, the Chinese radio.
Secondly, the wording is as though reporters or editors for said outlets were committing a crime or illegal activity. Biographies of those journalists are given (some of them with factual mistakes) ina way that highlights their careers in Turkish media outlets that were not in line with President Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.
Thirdly, references are given to those journalists’ social media posts, arbitrarily handpicked to show them as opponents of Erdoğan or the government.
The truth is that most of the journalists who currently work for international media, which boosted their audience incredibly in recent years, had been left jobless by Turkish media outlets as the companies gradually lost their ownerships to pro-government investors. According to a recent report by the International Press Institute (IPI), more than 70 per cent of Turkish media outlets is now owned by pro-government investors. According to a report by the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) around 10 thousand media employees were left jobless since the Gezi protests in 2013. TGC records show 127 media employees, including journalists and columnists, are in prison.
It is interesting that the SETA report was released right when AKP members of parliament complained to Erdoğan in a recent meeting to assess their defeat the Istanbul re-election on June 23 that even their own grassroots are not following “their media”, but others.
The fact is that a growing portion of the Turkish audience is getting their news not from once-mainstream media but from independent digital platforms or international media services of Turkish origin.
The report shows that the pro-government media, which proved useless for Erdoğan in the last elections despite large financial incentives and support, wants to provoke the government to stop independent voices who are more relied on and followed by the Turkish audience than themselves.
The report might be bad news for three reasons. 1- The Turkish government could ask respective governments to stop the broadcasts, 2- New restrictions could fall on social media platforms used by independent Turkish outlets, 3- Pressure on the content of independent media platforms in Turkey could intensify.
And a little detail: the report was printed, like many other SETA reports, by Turkuvaz Group which owns pro-government Sabah newspaper as well as the ATV channel. The group is run by Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s Finance and Treasury Minister, who is also the son-in-law of President Erdoğan.