ANKARA: Relations between Turkey and Russia have reached a new low with Ankara’s launch of a Russian-language TV channel and social media account to fight “fake news” from Moscow.
The official aim of the new digital platform is “battling disinformation and manipulation.”
Turkey’s state-run TRT broadcaster, which already has English, Arabic and German channels, said it would work through local correspondents in the Russian-speaking world to give “alternative narratives.”
“Like many Western countries, Turkey has been a target of intense Russian disinformation campaigns,” Dr. Emre Ersen, an expert on Turkey-Russia relations from Marmara University in Istanbul, told Arab News.
“So the launch of TRT Russian could definitely be viewed as a countermeasure against such campaigns by Russia now that the divergence of interests between the two countries over Syria and Libya is becoming more and more visible.”
Relations between the two countries are becoming increasingly strained. The shooting down of a Russian fighter jet by Turkish forces in November 2015 sparked a fierce information war between their media outlets.
In March, Turkish police briefly detained the editor in chief of Russia’s Sputnik Turkey news agency, and employees’ homes were attacked by mobs who called them “Russian spies.” Russia’s Foreign Ministry condemned the episode as a “flagrant violation of the rights of journalists.”
Last year, the Turkish EDAM think-tank published a study suggesting that Russian sources had published tens of thousands of fake news stories about the downing of the Russian jet, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and talks about Russia’s S-400 missile system.
“Even before the downing of the Russian jet, Turkish media were suspicious of Russia,” said Dr. Akin Unver, an associate professor of international relations at Kadir Has University in Istanbul. “Its annexation of Crimea, and military deployment in Syria were all viewed with suspicion. After the shooting down of the jet, there was a seven-month media war between Russia and Turkey, and Russia won the war of narratives.”