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!”


Egyptian icon Bahiga Hafez gets Google Doodle tribute

Updated 04 August 2020

Egyptian icon Bahiga Hafez gets Google Doodle tribute

  • Hafez was widely known for her extensive contribution in the early days of Egyptian cinema
  • Her work has “helped pave the way for the start of what is widely considered Egyptian cinema’s golden age in the 1940s”

DUBAI: Google honored one of Egypt’s cinema icons Bahiga Hafez with a doodle on Tuesday, in what would have been the star’s 112th birthday.

The doodle, which shows a young Hafez with a pearl-embellished head dress, was illustrated by Cairo-based artist Marian El-Reweny.

Hafez was widely known for her extensive contribution in the early days of Egyptian cinema – both as an on-screen talent and behind the scenes where she would work as a producer, director, editor, costume designer or composer.

The Alexandria-born pioneering icon earned a degree in music composition in Paris in 1930. She moved back to Egypt to work with record companies until she was cast as the female lead in the silent film “Zeinab” for her debut onscreen performance.

Hafez and her husband, Mahmoud Hamdi, established Fanar Film Company two years later, which further demonstrated her talent in filmmaking. The company released “Al-Dahaya” in 1932, and Hafez played a crucial role in its production.

The groundbreaking star went on to produce more films, and her work has “helped pave the way for the start of what is widely considered Egyptian cinema’s golden age in the 1940s,” Google said.

She died in Cairo in December 1983 at the age of 75.