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!”


Defense in US murder case can obtain private social media posts

This file photo taken on March 31, 2012 shows the US Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (AFP)
Updated 23 July 2019
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Defense in US murder case can obtain private social media posts

SAN FRANCISCO: The California Supreme Court has effectively ruled that the defense in a gang-related murder trial can obtain private postings from social media companies.
The court lifted a stay of a ruling by the judge overseeing the San Francisco trial and noted that the judge’s findings strongly justify access in this case, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s the first time such an order has been enforced in a California court, the Times said.
Last year, the California Supreme Court ruled that the defense in the gang case could have social media postings that were public at the time of the killings, but that ruling did not deal with private postings.
The Supreme Court ruling means that the lower court judge could review any postings obtained from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and decide which ones will be given to the defense.
Facebook has an ongoing appeal against the San Francisco judge’s ruling. However, if the ruling is upheld and Facebook refuses to hand over postings, it might be held in contempt of court.
“We believe that federal law prohibits an order requiring us to turn over private Facebook and Instagram account content of crime victims to a defendant and his defense lawyers,” Facebook said in a statement. “We will continue to protect our users’ privacy interests and are considering options in light of the court’s order.”
A message seeking comment from Twitter was not immediately returned.
The California Supreme Court’s decision is not binding on other courts, but it is expected to be cited by defense attorneys seeking private posts in other cases.
For years, social media companies have opposed efforts by criminal defense attorneys to access accounts, arguing that federal privacy law — the Stored Communications Act — bars cooperation except in limited circumstances.
In the past, only law enforcement has been able to force social media companies to provide private postings.

The criminal case is the prosecution of a killing and attempted killing involving a June 2013 drive-by shooting in San Francisco.
A 14-year-old boy who participated in the shooting told police that beforehand he had interacted with the slain victim, who had “tagged” him on Instagram in a video that included guns.
The boy said he shot that victim six times and asserted that the victim “would have done the same thing to us.”
The boy was tried in juvenile court and found to be responsible for the murder of Jaquan Rice Jr. and attempted murder of Rice’s girlfriend, who was a minor. The boy was declared a ward of the court, and he was committed for a term of 83 years, four months to life.
Two other defendants, Derrick Hunter and Lee Sullivan, were separately indicted on murder, attempted murder and other charges.
Prosecutors say Hunter, Sullivan and the minor are members of a gang and that Rice was killed because he was part of a rival gang and threatened the boy via social media. They recently invoked their right to a speedy trial, and a jury was selected earlier this month.
Defense attorneys have served subpoenas on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in an effort to gain access to private, public and deleted postings from the accounts of Rice and a prosecution witness.