Government-backed report turns journalists in Turkey into public targets

Demonstrators protest against the Turkish government's curbs on media. (AFP/File)
Updated 07 July 2019
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Government-backed report turns journalists in Turkey into public targets

  • The report’s structure resembles an indictment, criminalizing journalists who work for foreign media outlets
  • Many national and international think-tanks publish reports on media industry

ANKARA: Turkey’s pro-government think-tank SETA targeted many Turkish and foreign journalists working for foreign media outlets, including myself — I have been working for Arab News in Turkey for years — in an controversial 200-page report.
The reporters, whose biographies and social media accounts have been profiled in the report, were effectively put on a target list.
Social media interactions, retweets, likes on Twitter and the media outlets where they were employed were analyzed in the report.
Journalists were evaluated for coverage of critical events in recent Turkish history: the Gezi park protests in 2013, curfews in southeastern Anatolia between 2015-2016 and the failed coup attempt in 2016.
In the “suggestions” section of the report, the public was encouraged to contact the authorities about foreign media outlets mentioned in the report whenever they are thought to be producing reports critical of Turkish government.
The report hasn’t been published in English yet.
The report, entitled International Media Outlets’ Extensions in Turkey, has been strongly criticized for overtly targeting and profiling reporters who are working in Turkey for the international press.
The report’s structure resembles an indictment, criminalizing journalists who work for foreign media outlets, including Arab News, BBC, Deutsche Welle, Voice of America, Euronews Turkish, CRI Turkish and Sputnik.
Several journalists in Turkey who were dismissed from their jobs in the mainstream media, have turned to working for foreign media outlets in recent years.
Some syndicates strongly criticized the report and said those who published it would be responsible for any harm that occured to the journalists profiled in the report.
“This is arrogance, mixed with incompetence, and finished with a sprinkle of malice on top,” Selim Sazak, a political analyst from Brown University, told Arab News.
“SETA was always Erdogan government’s policy shop, pretending to be a think-tank. It seems like they’ve finally reached the point where they’re not even pretending anymore,” he added.
Some experts see the report as a sign of increasing pressure on the media in Turkey.
Dr. Sarphan Uzunoglu, assistant professor of multimedia journalism at the Lebanese American University, said the main problem about this report is its agenda.
“Many national and international think-tanks publish reports on media industry. However even the most biased NGO or think-tank reports are based on more rational proofs or datasets,” he told Arab News.
“Lacking academic perspective and political objectiveness, the report is also intellectually very limited in terms of its approach to the media outlets it covers. It never goes beyond being a conspiracy-based report,” Uzunoglu added.
For Uzunoglu, the report tends to normalize a series of human rights violations.
“This report also demonstrates how pro-government intellectuals operate and how institutions like SETA turned into ideological tools for the government,” he added.
Reporters without Borders, the international group which advocates freedom of the press, criticized the report: “We firmly condemn this new intimidation attempt and we stand with our targeted colleagues!”
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom condemned it: “It is criminalizing the foreign journalists working in Turkey and trying to intimidate them. This is alarming!”


Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

Updated 18 July 2019
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Netflix to roll out cheaper mobile-only plan for India

  • India is among the last big growth markets for the company
  • Netflix faces competition from Amazon’s Prime Video and Walt Disney Co’s Hotstar
Netflix said on Wednesday it would roll out a lower-priced mobile-only plan in India within the next three months to tap into a price-sensitive market at a time the streaming company is losing customers in its home turf.
India is among the last big growth markets for the company, where it faces competition from Amazon.com Inc’s Prime Video and Hotstar, a video streaming platform owned by Walt Disney Co’s India unit.
Netflix lost US streaming customers for the first time in eight years on Wednesday, when it posted quarterly results. It also missed targets for new subscribers overseas.
“India is a mobile-first nation, where many first-time users are experiencing the Internet on their phones. In such a scenario, a mobile-only package makes sense to target new users,” said Tarun Pathak, analyst at Counterpoint Research.
The creator of “Stranger Things” and “The Crown” said in March that it was testing a 250-rupee ($3.63) monthly subscription for mobile devices in India, where data plans are among the cheapest in the world.
The country figures prominently in Chief Executive Officer Reed Hastings’ global expansion plans.
“We believe this plan, which will launch in the third quarter, will be an effective way to introduce a larger number of people in India to Netflix and to further expand our business,” the company said in a letter to investors released late on Wednesday.
Netflix currently offers three monthly plans in India, priced between 500 rupees ($7.27) and 800 rupees $11.63).
It has created a niche following in the country by launching local original shows like the thriller “Sacred Games” and dystopian tale “Leila,” which feature popular Bollywood actors.
The second season of “Sacred Games” is set to release in August.
In contrast, Hotstar, which also offers content from AT&T Inc’s HBO and also streams live sports, charges 299 rupees ($4.35) per month. Amazon bundles its video and music streaming services with its Prime membership.
“We’ve been seeing nice steady increases in engagement with our Indian viewers that we think we can keep building on. Growth in that country is a marathon, so we’re in it for the long haul,” Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said.