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Turkey's journalist unions file criminal complaint over blacklisting report

JOURNALISTS in Turkey have reported an increase in attacks and oppression in the wake of a McCarthyite blacklisting report published by a pro-government think tank earlier this week.

Turkey’s Foundation for Political, Economic & Social Research (Seta), which is close to authoritarian President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, now faces a criminal complaint in response to its publication of a 202-page report that unions have warned is making journalists working for foreign news organisations “public targets.”

The Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS) filed a criminal complaint to an Istanbul court on Monday on behalf of journalists’ associations and unions.

They are protesting at the document’s claims, warning that it “incites people to hatred” against Turkish journalists working for media groups such as BBC Turkey and Deutsche Welle.

The Seta report listed media organisations it accused of an “anti-government” agenda, including biased reporting giving a false picture of Turkey.

It cited coverage of events such as the failed coup attempt of July 2016 as evidence, along with reports of the fall in the Turkish currency, the mass arrests of Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) representatives and members, and safety failures during the construction of Istanbul’s third airport.

But the TGS said the report had “cherry-picked information and used it in “a manipulative manner.” The report lists details of the work of individual journalists and their social media profiles.

Unions described the report as a blacklist and an attempt to silence critical voices and independent journalism, a reminder of the infamous “andic” (memorandum) published in 1998 by the Hurriyet daily newspaper after it was leaked by Turkish intelligence services.

The information was said to have come from confessions made by captured senior Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) cadre Semdin Sakik, although this subsequently proved to be false.

The fake document served as a blacklist of those critical of the military’s handling of the so-called “Kurdish question,” with accusations that journalists had “supported the PKK in exchange for money.”

Hundreds of media organisations were shut by presidential decree following the failed coup attempt of July 2016 and Turkey is the world’s biggest jailer of journalists: a third of the world’s jailed journalists are imprisoned there. Though accurate figures are hard to ascertain, the TGS says at least 133 journalists are now in prison.

Press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has warned that the Seta report creates “malevolent political debates, which were hastily prepared to intimidate journalists and aimed at intimidating targeted journalists.” It accused Seta of contributing to “an especially dangerous witch-hunt” against journalists.

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