Press unions slam Turkish think tank for risking journalists’ lives

Press unions in Turkey have condemned a report they say risked the lives of almost 150 journalists working with international media outlets by blacklisting them, T24 news portal reported on Tuesday.

The report was prepared by Ismail Caglar, Kevser Hulya Akdemir and Seca Toker from the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), a think tank with close ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party (AKP).

TitledTurkey extensions of international media organizations, the report covers detailed information on journalists working with prominent international news sources that include Deutsche Welle Turkish, BBC Turkish, and Sputnik Turkey.

Representatives from press unions that include the Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS), the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey (DISK) and the Progressive Journalists Association (CGD) attended Tuesday’s press briefing.

TGC Secretary General Sibel Gunes argued that the SETA report risked the lives of the journalists by blacklisting them through publishing their photos, resumes, and social media posts.

Defining the report as the latest attempt at targeting journalists and a black stain in the history of the press, the statement indicated that the journalists’ posts on freedom of the press and expression were labeled in the report as anti-government.

“The advice given by SETA that journalists must be inspected [by authorities] shows how little they understand the universality of journalism and how uncomfortable they are with a multi-voiced press,” the unions stated.

Referring to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, where Turkey ranks 157th out of 180 countries, Gunes stated that the country has one of the highest numbers of imprisoned professional journalists in the world.

“More than 10,000 journalists are currently unemployed due to hundreds of media outlets shut down as part of an increasing state crackdown on critical media. The political power [AKP] desires standardized journalists and standardized news reports,” the unions said.

They also said according to universal principles of journalism, freedom of expression not only involves positive and harmless thoughts but also the thoughts that “offend, shock or disturb the state.”

“We condemn SETA’s report that aims to threaten journalists who carry out legal and legitimate work and announce that it is a crime to take part in such a practice,” the joint statement concluded.

TGC President Turgay Olcayto defined the report as a sad episode for Turkey’s democracy.

“There are no signs of proper research in SETA’s text. There are only accusations and targeting, mostly our colleagues from the union,” he added.

Can Ugur, from the TGS, announced that they filed a criminal complaint against SETA for incitement of hatred and enmity and disclosing private data.

Underlining that she read the report from beginning to end, PEN Turkey President Zeynep Oral also commented that it has nothing to do with research, ideas, and analysis.

“It is written to threaten and terrorize [journalists critical of the government] and it targets the freedom of thought and expression that has been limited [in Turkey] for some time,” Oral explained.

“It regards writing news reports on femicides and contacting members of HDP [the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party], a legal political party, as questionable actions or crimes,” Oral added, describing the report as a witch hunt by SETA. “According to the report, it is also a crime to criticize the government. It implies that even if the country’s economy is terrible, it is forbidden to express it [in reports or social media posts],” Oral further commented.

DISK press union head Faruk Eren held forth that the report was “an ignorant and impertinent text of whistleblowing.”

“Our colleagues’ honorable work will go down in history, not this kind of shamefulness,” he said.

Kenan Sener, the CGD board member, warned that the report might trigger personal attacks on the journalists in the upcoming days.

Outraged Turkish journalists take action over ‘blacklisting’ report

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