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

Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists
Above, Turkish female anchor Ebru Baki. (Supplied)
Short Url
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.


Twitter’s India woes worsen as police summon chief over viral video

Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
Updated 31 min 1 sec ago

Twitter’s India woes worsen as police summon chief over viral video

Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers. (File/AFP)
  • Indian police summon Twitter's top official in the country to answer allegation of inciting hate between communities.
  • This comes amidst India's crackdown on Twitter and other social media firms to comply with country's new IT rules.

LUCKNOW: Police in India have summoned Twitter’s top official in the country to answer allegations that the US firm failed to stop the spread of a video that allegedly incited “hate and enmity” between Hindu and Muslim communities.
An official police notice, seen by Reuters, showed a case had been registered in Ghaziabad in northern Uttar Pradesh state over a video of a few men, apparently Hindu, beating an elderly man believed to be a Muslim and cutting his beard.
The police report names Twitter Inc, its local unit and seven others for their alleged roles in disseminating a video that was deemed insulting to religious beliefs and causing public mischief in a state with a long, bloody history of communal violence.
The controversy comes just as India’s federal government is locking horns with Twitter over non-compliance with new IT rules, which have raised doubts whether the platform would continue to enjoy protection against legal liability for user-generated content. The new rules became effective in late May.
In a notice dated Thursday, Ghaziabad police wrote to Twitter India head Manish Maheshwari to appear before officials within seven days of the receipt of the summons.
“Some people used their Twitter handles to spread hatred and enmity in the society and Twitter did not take cognizance,” said the notice, which was reviewed by Reuters.
“Writings and works which promoted enmity and affected harmony between different communities in the country and the state were encouraged and such anti-society messages were allowed to go viral.”
Twitter declined to comment, and Maheshwari did not respond to a request for comment.
IT minister Ravi Shankar Prasad lashed out at Twitter this week for the Ghaziabad incident, saying its failure to act was “perplexing.”

NO SAFE HARBOUR
Prasad has said Twitter has not complied with a new set of government rules that required them to appoint new compliance officers by May 26.
The rules state that in case of non-compliance, protection that companies enjoy related to any liability against user generated content “shall not be applicable” and companies “shall be liable for punishment under any law.”
“The moment Twitter was non-complaint, the safe harbor protection was automatically not available,” said Shlok Chandra, a New Delhi-based lawyer who represents the federal government in various cases. “The position is very clear.”
Some free speech activists and lawyers, however, disagree.
“The Central Government neither has the power to bestow, nor the power to “withdraw” the exemption from liability...The determination of the question whether Twitter is entitled to seek exemption from liability is solely within the domain of the Courts,” Delhi-based Ira Law firm said in a LinkedIn post this month.
Three special rapporteurs appointed by a top United Nations human rights body last week urged India to review the new IT rules, saying their broadened scope did not conform with international human rights norms and could threaten digital rights.
To comply with India’s new IT rules, companies such as Twitter needed to appoint a chief compliance officer, a nodal officer and a resident grievance officer. But LinkedIn job postings show all three positions were currently open at Twitter.
The social media giant has however retained an interim chief compliance officer, it said this week, adding that it was making all efforts to adhere to the new IT rules. 


Vietnam introduces nationwide code of conduct for social media

Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
Updated 30 min 36 sec ago

Vietnam introduces nationwide code of conduct for social media

Last year, Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content. (File/AFP)
  • Vietnam introduce code of conduct laws for social media which prohibit posts that affect the interests of the state.
  • It is not yet clear to what extent the decision is legally binding, or how it will be enforced.

HANOI: Vietnam introduced national guidelines on social media behavior on Friday which encourage people to post positive content about the Southeast Asian country and require state employees to report “conflicting information” to their superiors.
The code prohibits posts which violate the law and “affect the interests of the state” and applies to state organizations, social media companies, and all their users in Vietnam.
“Social media users are encouraged to promote the beauty of Vietnam’s scenery, people and culture, and spread good stories about good people,” reads the code, which was contained in a decision from the information ministry and dated June 17.
It was not clear to what extent the decision was legally binding, or how it would be enforced.
Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party tolerates little criticism, retains tight control over media and has in recent years presided over an intensified crackdown on dissidents and activists, some of whom are serving lengthy jail terms for posts on Facebook and Google’s YouTube.
In November last year, Reuters exclusively reported that Vietnamese authorities had threatened to shut down Facebook if the social media giant did not bow to government pressure to censor more local political content on the platform.
Vietnam is a major market for Facebook, which serves about 60 million users in the country and generates revenue of nearly $1 billion, according to sources familiar with the numbers.
The new code requires social media providers in Vietnam to “deal with users in accordance with Vietnamese law” when requested by authorities to remove content from their platforms.
It encourages social media users to create accounts using their real identities, share information from official sources, and avoid posting content which violates the law, contains bad language, or advertises illegal services.
In January, Vietnamese social media users used fake weather reports and football scores as a creative means to discuss Communist Party leadership wrangling after an official ban on speculation ahead of a Party congress. 


Myanmar extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster

The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Myanmar extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster

The parents of detained journalist Danny Fenster, Buddy Fenster and Rose Fenster and brother Bryan Fenster gather in Huntington Woods, Michigan. (AFP)
  • Myanmar court extends detention of US journalist Danny Fenster while US Embassy officials are still being denied access to him.
  • About 90 journalists have been arrested since the military junta seized power in February and more than half of them are still detained.

BANGKOK: A court in Myanmar extended the detention of American journalist Danny Fenster for another two weeks Thursday, while the US State Department urged that it be granted consular access to him.
Online news and business magazine Frontier Myanmar, where Fenster is managing editor, said he faces a charge that carries a potential three-year prison term.
The charge, used frequently against dissidents and journalists, criminalizes “any attempt to cause fear, spread false news, or agitate directly or indirectly a criminal offense against a government employee.” The magazine said it did not know the reason for the charge.
Myanmar’s military government has tried to silence independent news media by withdrawing the licenses they must obtain to publish or broadcast and by arresting journalists.
According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, about 90 journalists have been arrested since the army seized power in February and more than half of them are still detained.
The special court at Insein Prison in Yangon ordered Fenster’s continued detention there for two weeks, scheduling his next hearing for July 1.
Myanmar authorities have not allowed US Embassy officials access to Fenster, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters in Washington. He urged them to grant access under the Vienna Convention “without delay and to ensure proper treatment of Danny.”
Price said the State Department was “very gratified” by the release of another US journalist, Nathan Maung, who had been arrested on a similar charge in March while working for a local news online news agency in Myanmar.
Maung was deported Tuesday after the charge against him was dropped and his case dismissed, though a colleague at Kamayut Media who was arrested with him, Myanmar citizen Hanthar Nyein, remains imprisoned. Price said Maung has met and spoken with senior State Department officials since his return.
Frontier said Fenster was represented by a lawyer in court Thursday but the magazine’s representatives were not permitted to attend. “We are still seeking information on the reason for Danny’s arrest and continued detention,” Frontier said in its statement.
Fenster, 37, was detained at Yangon International Airport on May 24 as he was trying to board a flight to go to the Detroit area to see his family.
Two Myanmar journalists who were arrested more than a month ago were released Thursday, the wife of one of them said.
Voice of Myanmar Editor-in-Chief Nay Myo Lin and reporter Shine Aung were arrested on April 27 when they obeyed an order to report themselves for questioning about articles judged to be anti-military.
Both returned to their homes after they were released when the cases against them were dropped, said Zarni Mann, who is Nay Myo Lin’s wife. Voice of Myanmar, an online news service suspended operations following their arrests.
“We have said that journalism is not a crime. But not only Nay Myo Lin but also many other journalists have been prosecuted and detained in the prisons. I want all other detained journalists to be released, just like Nay Myo Lin,” said Zarni Mann.


Hong Kong newspaper increases print fivefold after arrests

The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
Updated 18 June 2021

Hong Kong newspaper increases print fivefold after arrests

The paper’s average daily circulation increase from approximately 86,000 copies to 500,000 overnight. (AFP)
  • Hong Kong's Apple Daily prints increased fivefold after the police arrested five top editors and executives.
  • On Thursday, police raided the offices of the pro-democracy newspaper, arrested five people and froze $2.3 million worth of assets.

HONG KONG: Hong Kong pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily increased its print run more than fivefold to 500,000 copies as residents lined up Friday to buy the paper in a show of support for beleaguered press freedoms, a day after police arrested five top editors and executives.
The raid on the paper’s offices by hundreds of police and security agents — along with the freezing of $2.3 million worth of its assets — marked the first time a sweeping national security law has been used against the media. It was the latest sign of a widening crackdown on civil liberties in the semi-autonomous city, which has long cherished freedoms that don’t exist elsewhere in China.
Police said the editors were arrested on suspicion of foreign collusion to endanger national security, based on over 30 articles that authorities said had called for international sanctions against China and Hong Kong.
On Friday, the National Security Department charged two men with collusion with a foreign country to endanger national security, according to a government statement. The two will appear in court on Saturday.
It did not name them, but the South China Morning Post newspaper cited an unnamed source saying they are Apply Daily’s chief editor Ryan Law and Cheung Kim-hung, the CEO of Apple Daily’s publisher Next Digital. The other three were being detained for investigation.
With anti-government protests silenced, most of the city’s prominent pro-democracy activists in jail and many others fleeing abroad, people snapped up copies at newsstands and in convenience stores.
“There are lots of injustices in Hong Kong already. I think there are a lot of things we cannot do anymore,” said resident Lisa Cheung. “Buying a copy is all what we can do. When the law cannot protect Hong Kong people anymore, we are only left to do what we can.”
The front page of Friday’s edition splashed images of the five editors and executives led away in handcuffs. Police also confiscated 44 hard drives worth of news material. A quote from Cheung, the arrested CEO of Next Digital, said “Hang in there, everyone.”
Another resident, William Chan, said he bought a copy of the paper as a show of support.
“It was such a groundless arrest and suppressed freedom of the press,” he said.
The national security law was imposed after massive protests in 2019 challenged Beijing’s rule by calling for broader democratic freedoms. It outlaws subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign countries. The maximum penalty for serious offenders is life imprisonment.
Security Minister John Lee had on Thursday warned other journalists to distance themselves from those under investigation at Apple Daily. He said those arrested had used journalistic work to endanger national security and that anyone who was “in cahoots” with them would pay a hefty price.
The United States, which has imposed sanctions against Hong Kong and Chinese officials over the crackdown, strongly condemned the arrests and called for the immediate release of the five arrested.
“We are deeply concerned by Hong Kong authorities’ selective use of the national security law to arbitrarily target independent media organizations,” State Department spokesman Price said, adding that the suspected foreign collusion charges appear to be politically motivated.
“As we all know, exchanging views with foreigners in journalism should never be a crime,” he said.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a tweet that freedom of the press is one of the rights China had promised to protect for 50 years when Britain handed over Hong Kong in 1997.
“Today’s raids & arrests at Apple Daily in Hong Kong demonstrate Beijing is using the National Security Law to target dissenting voices, not tackle public security,” Raab said.
European Union spokesperson Nabila Massrali said that the arrests “further demonstrate how the National Security Law is being used to stifle media freedom and freedom of expression in Hong Kong.” Media freedom and pluralism are fundamental to Hong Kong’s success under the “one country, two systems” framework, she said.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian rejected the foreign criticism and defended the government’s action, repeating China’s insistence that the national security targets only a “small group of anti-China elements who disrupted Hong Kong and endangered the national security of the country.”
“No right or freedom, including freedom of the press, can break through the bottom line of national security,” Zhao told reporters at a daily briefing.
“Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong, Hong Kong affairs are purely China’s internal affairs, and no country, organization or individual has the right to intervene,” he said.
Apple Daily has pledged to readers that it will continue its reporting, and on Thursday night invited members of the media to its printing presses to watch its Friday edition roll off the press in a show of commitment.
Its founder Jimmy Lai is currently serving a 20-month prison sentence on charges of playing a part in unauthorized protests in 2019, and faces further charges under the national security law that could potentially put him away for life.
The paper’s average daily circulation has been around 86,000 copies.


Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting
Updated 18 June 2021

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting

Hong Kong media reel as security law targets democracy paper’s reporting
  • Hong Kong’s historical status as a press freedom bastion has been on shaky ground for years
  • Hong Kong and Chinese officials insisted the arrests were not an attack on the media

HONG KONG: The arrest of five senior executives over content published in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy Apple Daily newspaper is a stark warning to all media outlets on the reach of a new national security law, analysts and industry figures say.
It was the first time articles published in Hong Kong have sparked arrests under the new law that cracks down on dissent in the international business and media hub.
Hong Kong’s historical status as a press freedom bastion has been on shaky ground for years. But Thursday’s police raid against Apple Daily was a watershed moment.
Some 500 officers descended on the paper’s newsroom, bundling computers and notepads into evidence bags.
Five executives, including its editor and publisher, were being arrested for “collusion with foreign forces,” one of the new offenses under a national security law China imposed on Hong Kong last year.
Justifying the arrests, Senior Superintendent Steve Li said the contents of 30 articles calling for international sanctions were evidence of “conspiracy” to undermine China’s national security.
Li warned Hong Kongers not to share the articles even as he refused to say which ones were now deemed illegal.
Some, he confirmed, were published before the security law was enacted in June last year, although it is not supposed to be retroactive.
For reporters and publishers across the city, the message was clear: what one writes or prints could lead to a knock on the door from the national security police.
“It’s very heartbreaking,” said Bao Choy, a local reporter who was recently prosecuted over an investigation into the police’s failure to stop an attack by government loyalists on pro-democracy protesters during political unrest in 2019.
“We are walking into a very dark tunnel, it’s kind of endless at this point. I’m not optimistic about the future of journalism in Hong Kong,” she said.
Hong Kong and Chinese officials insisted the arrests were not an attack on the media.
Security secretary John Lee portrayed Apple Daily as an outlier, a “criminal syndicate” that was different to other media.
“This action has nothing to do with normal journalism work,” he said.
“It is aimed at suspected use of journalism as a tool to commit acts that endanger national security. Normal journalists are different from them. Don’t get involved with them, and keep a distance from them.”
Lee’s comments did little to alleviate already heightened concerns that Hong Kong’s days as a media hub are numbered.
Sharron Fast, a lecturer at the University of Hong Kong’s journalism school, said Lee’s words were both “ominous” and opaque.
“There was no clarity at all provided on what amounts to a conspiracy to collude with foreign forces in the context of reporting on developments concerning sanctions and boycotts,” she said.
The Hong Kong Journalists Association said Lee’s words had “spread fear and panic among journalists.”
It said the security law was now “a weapon to prosecute media executives and journalists for publishing reports and articles that are deemed as a threat to national security.”
The city’s Foreign Correspondents Club said the arrests “will serve to intimidate independent media in Hong Kong and will cast a chill over the free press.”
Multiple international media companies, including AFP, have regional headquarters in Hong Kong, attracted to the business-friendly regulations and free speech provisions written into the city’s mini-constitution.
But many are now questioning whether they have a future there.
The New York Times moved its Asia hub last year to South Korea after the law was enacted, and others have drawn up contingency plans.
The Washington Post also chose Seoul for a new Asia hub.
Visas are taking much longer to obtain while Beijing’s state media and senior officials have penned increasingly angry denunciations of the western media’s coverage.
Hong Kong’s leaders say they remain committed to allowing an independent media although the city has steadily plunged down an annual press freedom ranking by Reporters Without Borders, from 18th place in 2002 to 80th this year.
Mainland China languishes 177th out of 180, above only Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
It is not clear how long Apple Daily can survive with its owner Jimmy Lai in jail, five executives arrested and most of the company’s assets now frozen.
“The writing is on the wall for Apple Daily,” Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, said.
“Whatever formal justification may be put for the raid on Apple premises and for the arrests, I think the real objective is to make it impossible for Apple to continue to publish in Hong Kong,” he added.