A Turkish pro-government think tank that allegedly blacklisted Turkish journalists working for international media has been financed mainly by the family of the president’s son-in-law, the German government revealed in a parliamentary question.
In a response to a parliamentary inquiry questioning the financial sources of Turkey’s Foundation for Political, Social and Economic Research (SETA), Germany’s government said the family of Berat Albayrak, the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s and the Minister of Treasury and Finance, was funding the foundation.
“SETA is not a public organization and headquartered in Ankara [the capital]. It has branches in Istanbul, Brussels, Washington, Cairo, and Berlin. The institution, which is close to the government, is to a large extent financed by the Albayrak family,” the German government said, according to a Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkish report on Thursday.
The inquiry, lodged by Germany’s Left Party, also questioned whether SETA’s activities were under the government monitoring as the foundation had opened a branch in the German capital in 2017.
The government did not answer that question but said the related authorities would do whatever necessary if the Turkish foundation would illegally try to increase its influence in the country or to carry out intelligence-gathering activities.
The federal government had not answered most of the questions in the inquiry, the DW report said.
DW approached Zafer Mese, SETA’s Berlin branch head, for an interview request regarding the report by the federal government, but he refused.
The influential think tank, known to have close ties to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, is headed by Berat Albayrak’s brother, Serhat Albayrak. He is also a board member of the Calik Holding Media Group, Turkuvaz.
Before his political career, Berat Albayrak also served as SETA’s CEO.
The German government said they were aware of the links between the foundation and the AKP government, adding that both the presidential communications director Fahrettin Altun and the presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin were also former SETA personnel.
SETA came in for harsh criticism last July when it published a report which allegedly blacklisted journalists working for international media outlets, including DW Turkish, BBC Turkish, and Euronews, in Turkey and tried to criminalize the profession of journalism.
The SETA report, titled “the Turkey extensions of the international media organizations”, published detailed information of journalists, including their resumes, social media posts, retweets and even people who retweeted their posts.
“By using the word ‘extension’, the so-called SETA report displayed clearly the intolerance against the staff of international media outlets by making them a target,” said Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a press freedom group.
Some social media posts accused SETA of using intelligence-gathering methods used by Turkish police.
At the time, a criminal complaint was submitted against the institution by the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) and the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA), a nongovernmental organization offering journalists legal protection.