Press freedom remains a distant dream for many Turkish journalists

Press freedom remains a distant dream for many Turkish journalists
Turkish police detain demonstrators during a recent protest in Istanbul amid tough measures to contain the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP/File)
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Updated 04 May 2021

Press freedom remains a distant dream for many Turkish journalists

Press freedom remains a distant dream for many Turkish journalists
  • Media banned from recording or filming police actions against protesters

ANKARA: The challenges facing Turkish journalists came under the spotlight again on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, with experts saying the COVID-19 pandemic had made conditions harder for the media.

The government controls 90 percent of national media and uses its regulatory bodies to stifle dissenting voices, with Turkey ranking 153 out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index.

Last month, 49 journalists appeared in court and 48 received prison sentences. The remaining one was obliged to pay an indemnity of TRY50,000 ($6,042). 

The first hearing in the trial of journalist Melis Alphan took place in Istanbul recently. She faces terror propaganda charges and a prison sentence of up to seven-and-a-half years for sharing a picture from the 2015 Newroz celebrations, even though the image was shown across mainstream media at the time.

Turkey’s state-run Radio and Supervision High Council (RTUK) often fines broadcasters as a way of punishment, while dissident journalists are often denied the press cards given out by the Presidential Communications Directorate.

In response to a parliamentary question, the directorate revealed on April 5 that it had canceled or not renewed the press cards of 1,371 journalists in the last two years.

However, Turkey’s top administrative court the Council of State ruled that changes making it easier for the government to cancel press cards violated press freedom and that press cards could not be canceled for arbitrary and vague reasons such as “conduct against the public order or national security.”

RTUK recently imposed heavy fines on Halk TV, Haber Turk, Fox TV, Tele 1, and KRT for content that was critical of the government and its coalition partner the Nationalist Movement Party.

“These latest fines confirm that RTUK has become a means to stifle media content critical not only of the government or president but also of any political allies,” the International Press Institute said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the already negative conditions where Turkish journalists were trying to work,” Ozgur Ogret, Turkey representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, told Arab News. “In addition to their concerns of being arrested or detained, they are now coping with the virus threat.” 

Three police officers who physically assaulted a journalist while she was covering a protest recently were charged with violating the freedom to work and labor, a move that was welcomed as ensuring press freedom in the country.

But, with a new circular issued just before May Day rallies, members of the press are now banned from recording and filming police actions against protesters to protect officers’ private lives.

“Trying to ban reporters from recording the actions of the police force is in vain in a world where everybody has their own phone cameras,” Ogret said. “It is impossible to justify such a restriction with privacy of life, and its only target is to restrict the freedom of the press.”

He said the ban on recording police actions while they were on duty also targeted people’s right to be informed.

“It is crystal clear that this ban cannot be implemented on the ground. We all saw it when people recorded police intervention on the journalists when they were exercising their journalism. If you try to stop one camera, you will inevitably draw all other cameras to the field.”

The circular was also criticized by opposition lawmakers.

“Recording of audio and video of disproportionate police interventions, in order to demonstrate the violations of rights before competent authorities, does not constitute a violation of privacy or the right to protect personal data. This circular must be canceled immediately,” said Republican People’s Party MP Utku Cakirozer, who is also a journalist by profession. “There is still a dark landscape for Turkish journalists on May 3.”


Twitter rolls out Tip Jar – allowing users to send money to favorite accounts

Twitter rolls out Tip Jar – allowing users to send money to favorite accounts
Updated 07 May 2021

Twitter rolls out Tip Jar – allowing users to send money to favorite accounts

Twitter rolls out Tip Jar – allowing users to send money to favorite accounts
  • Users will be able to connect their Twitter accounts via Tip Jar to various online payment vendors, including Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, PayPal or Venmo
  • The company hopes this will encourage people to show their support for creators they follow by tipping them

LONDON: Twitter announced on Thursday the roll-out of Tip Jar, a new in-app payment feature that allows users to send money to their favorite accounts. 

Users with access to the new feature will be able to connect their Twitter accounts with Tip Jar to various online payment vendors, including Bandcamp, Cash App, Patreon, PayPal or Venmo. The company hopes this will encourage people to show their support for creators they follow by tipping them. 

Twitter announced that the Tip Jar feature will initially be added to the profiles of a limited group of people around the world who use Twitter in English, including journalists, creators, experts and nonprofit organizations. Meanwhile, users wishing to send money to these selected profiles can already start doing so. 

People use Twitter to fundraise or collect payment from their followers, but until recently they were forced to link external payment methods after tweets, which did not prove to be very efficient. Now, a Tip Jar icon will be featured next to the "Follow" button on a user’s page. 

Twitter launched this feature in an attempt to boost its user base and will reportedly take no cut of the money sent through Tip Jar. 


TBWA\RAAD wins regional creative mandate for UAE’s largest tertiary hospital

TBWA\RAAD wins regional creative mandate for UAE’s largest tertiary hospital
Updated 07 May 2021

TBWA\RAAD wins regional creative mandate for UAE’s largest tertiary hospital

TBWA\RAAD wins regional creative mandate for UAE’s largest tertiary hospital
  • The agency will lead the regional advertising and marketing activities of Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City

DUBAI: The UAE’s largest tertiary hospital has appointed TBWA\RAAD as its creative agency of record.

The agency will lead the regional advertising and marketing activities of Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC), a joint-venture partnership between Abu Dhabi Health Services Co. (SEHA) and Mayo Clinic.

Ramez Youssef, marketing and public affairs director at SSMC, said: “We were thoroughly impressed by TBWA\RAAD’s strategic approach, which was particularly aligned with our brand’s ambition to provide excellence and innovation in healthcare services.”

The new partnership will come into effect this month and will see TBWA\RAAD and SSMC collaborate on developing the brand’s communication, messaging, and content strategy across multiple platforms.

Reda Raad, group chief executive officer at TBWA\RAAD, said: “We are looking forward to disrupting healthcare with SSMC and developing creative ideas that will help reinforce the brand’s position on a global scale as the leading hub for medical excellence and as a pioneer in innovation, driving the future of healthcare in Abu Dhabi and in the region.”


Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
Updated 07 May 2021

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant

Saudi journalist experiences empowerment of women as observer and participant
  • There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia

Not only does she report on the growing empowerment of women in Saudi Arabia, journalist Deema Al-Khudair said that every day she gets to experience the advances and greater freedoms women in the Kingdom now enjoy as a result of the ongoing reforms under her nation’s Vision 2030 development plan.

During an interview on “The Ray Hanania Show” on the US Arab Radio Network on Wednesday, Al-Khudair, a reporter with Arab News, talked about her experiences and some of the stories she has worked on that reveal the changing role of women in Saudi society.

Recently, for example, she wrote a story about women who work as security guards in the women’s prayer section at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah. It was exciting, she said, to see them proudly working on an equal footing with male security guards.

There is a general trend of inclusion of women in all sectors of employment in Saudi Arabia, said Al-Khudair, including the military.

“Women have been enrolling in the military for about three years now,” she said. “But for them to be noticed (working) in the Two Holy Mosques is still relatively new.

“The female security guards in Makkah (started working there around the time of the) last Hajj season. Most of these women I interviewed at the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah told me they have been working there for six months.”

Previously, the women’s prayer section was monitored by women who received only the most basic training and support. Thanks to the reforms, all that has changed.

“They receive firearms training, self-defense (instruction), learned about fitness, and they took courses in Islamic studies, computer education and English to (help them) speak with foreigners visiting the mosque,” said Al-Khudair “Anything men went through, they received the same training.”

The female guards are very proud of their new roles and the advances they have made.

“All of the women feel very empowered,” she said. “One of the women I interviewed told me her whole family has a military background — all of her brothers are in the military — and this job made her feel included. She felt right at home.”

Al-Khudair said she began her journalism career in 2017, soon after Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman unveiled his Vision 2030 project. The success of the initiative, an ambitious program of development and diversification in preparation for the post-oil age, depends in part on the expansion of the rights and freedoms of Saudi women.

In June 2018, for example, women in the Kingdom were granted the right to drive. Their child-custody rights were also reformed, and they were given the right to attend sporting events, among many other new freedoms.

Al-Khudair, who works on the local-news desk at Arab News, covering Saudi issues, said the past few years have been an exciting time for Saudi women.

“Honestly, I am so proud of them, myself, as a Saudi woman,” she said. “Throughout my job as a journalist I have witnessed all the changes the Kingdom went through.”

For example, she added, she has interviewed female athletes, successful businesswomen and other high-ranking Saudi women.”

Al-Khudair has written stories on many topics but said she has a special fondness for stories about children.

“Some of my favorite stories are children’s stories,” she said. For example, she interviewed a 7-year-old gymnast who said her ambition is to represent Saudi Arabia at the Olympics.

The nation’s youngsters can even make her smile when writing about serious issues such as the coronavirus crisis.

“During the pandemic last year, we were all upset about the lockdown and I wanted to find a way to make the situation lighter. So, I interviewed children,” Al-Khudair said.

“I wanted to find out what they knew about the coronavirus. I laughed through the whole article — they thought it was some green monster that was going to turn people into zombies. I loved that article.”

* The Ray Hanania Show is broadcast live every Wednesday on the US Arab Radio Network in Detroit on WNZK AM 690 radio, and in Washington DC on WDMV AM 700 Radio. The show is streamed live on Facebook.com/ArabNews and the podcast is available on iTunes, Spotify and many other podcasting providers. For more information on this and other interviews, visit ArabNews.com/RayRadioShow.


Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists

Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists
Updated 07 May 2021

Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists

Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists

ANKARA: A new report from the Coalition for Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) states that Turkey is “the leading country for attacks and threats against women journalists” this year.

Between January and April, 114 female journalists were attacked or threatened in Turkey the New York-based media organization revealed — more than in any other country in the world.

The CFWIJ’s First Quarterly Report for 2021 coincidentally coincided with Izzet Ulvi Yonter, deputy leader of the Turkish government’s coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), targeting female anchor Ebru Baki for her coverage of the MHP’s draft constitution proposal.

Yonter referred to the broadcaster as a “so-called journalist who distorts the facts and shows her intolerance against the MHP,” and said her attempts to “discredit” their draft proposal were “offensive and crude.”

Yonter’s criticism was followed on May 5 by the resignation of Bulent Aydemir, Haberturk TV’s chief editor and Baki’s co-anchor on the morning program.

The program was taken off air on Thursday, triggering a nationwide social media campaign using “I don’t watch Haberturk TV” as hashtag.

CFWIJ’s report said that, in Turkey, “Almost 50 women journalists appeared before the court to fight baseless charges; 20 suffered heavy workplace bullying at the newsrooms; 15 female journalists were subjected to police violence while covering the news, 14 were detained; three women journalists were sentenced to prison, and three were expelled. While one journalist was threatened with intimidation, another became the target of racist rhetoric” during the period covered.

Scott Griffen, deputy director at the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of journalists and editors defending media freedom, told Arab News: “Women journalists face a double threat: They are attacked for their work and they are attacked for their gender — a reflection of … sexism in society. IPI’s own research has shown that online attacks on female journalists tend to be more vicious and the insults and threats are often of a sexual nature.”

According to Griffen, attacks on women journalists are part of a broader trend, which is an effort by those in power to smear and undermine critical journalism and diverse voices.

Referring to Yonter’s attack on Baki, he said: “This incident shows that a political party, in this case the MHP, is unable to accept criticism and simply does not — or does not want to — understand the role of journalism in society. Politicians are required to accept criticism, even harsh criticism. Ebru Baki was doing her job, and the attacks on her are unacceptable.”

Griffen thinks that one consequence of these attacks is the risk of a rise in self-censorship.

“Journalists who are faced with such vicious attacks may decide to reconsider their reporting to avoid such abuse in the future, or they may even decide to leave the profession. And this is a huge loss for the public,” he said. “It means that stories are not being told, and diverse voices are not being heard. And, of course, that is what the attackers want. They wish to push critical voices out of the public sphere.”

Male journalists in Turkey have also been the targets of verbal and physical attacks. Recently, dissident journalist Levent Gultekin was beaten by a mob in the middle of a street in Istanbul, shortly after he criticized the MHP and its former leader. Gultekin was verbally attacked by the MHP deputy leader just before the assault.

“The crackdown against critical and independent media in Turkey is worsening every single day with new attacks from political figures. And female journalists who are reporting on critical issues that are sensitive to the government or its political allies are not immune from the attacks,” Renan Akyavas, Turkey program coordinator of IPI, told Arab News.

IPI’s own recent research also confirms that female journalists are more likely targets of online harassment for their critical reporting and views, she added.

The trend of public figures targeting journalists to silence dissident voices has been on the rise, Akyavas said. “We especially see an increasing trend of attacks by the ultra-nationalist MHP’s leaders and representatives to intimidate journalists, even in response to mild criticism.

“The targeting of Ebru Baki and Haberturk TV is only the latest example of this attitude, which is simply unacceptable coming from a governing alliance party. The MHP leadership must … protect fundamental rights and the safety of journalists, instead of threatening them,” she continued.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention — and the protection it provided against domestic violence — in March triggered further threats and violence against women reporters, the CFWIJ report underlined.

Akyavas agrees. “The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention had been a huge disappointment for women in Turkey fighting for their rights and gender equality. Impunity for crimes and violence against women has become a new norm for the country,” she said, adding that this trend will cease only if Turkish authorities show a genuine will to protect and implement women’s rights.

“Women journalists in Turkey must continue their courageous reporting, as their fundamental rights and freedom of expression were guaranteed and fully protected by the Turkish constitution. At IPI, we will continue our solidarity with them and our support for critical and independent journalism to provide the public with factual, objective news,” Akyavas continued.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association, TGC, released a statement on Thursday criticizing the way women journalists have been targeted by the MHP just because they smiled on air. “Such an attitude targets our colleagues’ safety and security. We call on the government and its partners to respect the law,” it noted.


TikTok joins coalition to protect children from online abuse

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)
TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)
Updated 06 May 2021

TikTok joins coalition to protect children from online abuse

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children. (Reuters/File Photo)

LONDON: Networking platform TikTok announced on Wednesday that it has joined the Technology Coalition, an organization that works to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse. 

Through this membership, TikTok aims to advance protections for children online and offline. 

TikTok reiterated its commitment to minors’ safety on the platform, and emphasized its zero tolerance for any content that perpetuates the abuse, harm, endangerment or exploitation of children, as outlined in the Community Guidelines. 

The announcement also features TikTok’s endorsement of the International Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, in an effort to ensure a consistent and strong response to exploitation across services.