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

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!”


Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

Updated 09 July 2020

Homegrown Saudi show ‘Takki’ now on Netflix

  • Saudi series provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism

Webedia Arabia Group, a media and technology company developing strategic, insight-driven, culturally led and creative content for Arab consumers, has announced Netflix’s licensing of the popular Saudi drama series “Takki,” which is now available for viewing on the platform.

Produced by UTURN, which is part of Webedia Arabia Group, the series follows the story of a young Saudi film director and reflects the different facets of Saudi society, including the social challenges faced by its youth. The homegrown Saudi series, written and produced by Mohammed (Anggy) Makki, provides insight into the life of a generation caught between conservatism and modernism.

Kaswara Al-Khatib, chairman of the board at Webedia Arabia Group and founder of UTURN, continues to nurture Saudi talent and propel the industry forward by drawing international recognition. The licensing of “Takki” by Netflix reflects the interest for hyper-localized Saudi content.

“In a region that lacks content relevant to Saudi youth, localization was key. Additionally, Saudi Arabia is filled with rising stars and through UTURN, we’ve created talent pools and incubated them. This is our way of helping to reshape the future of content and Saudi digital culture. Webedia Arabia Group is now full of opportunities that are in line with the Saudi Vision 2030, and we are positioned to develop outstanding content reaching worldwide audiences,” he said.

Webedia Arabia Group CEO George Maktabi added: “In a fast-moving world and with our 63 million Arab users, we are constantly combining the right narrative with insightful data, bridging the gap between audiences and broadcasters by engaging viewers in topics they are passionate about and giving them a space to express their creativity.”

As part of the Kingdom’s transformational era in promoting culture and entertainment, UTURN by Webedia Arabia Group continues to foster the talent of Saudi youth with several new projects in the pipeline.

Both seasons of “Takki” are now available on Netflix.