Turkey - Leaked reports show army and government abuse accreditation system



    
        Leaked reports published by the Turkish media on 8 and 9 March show
       that the army and the prime minister's office punish and reward
                  journalists according to their "loyalty."
    

    MONTREAL, March 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Leaked reports by the army high command
and the prime minister's office that were published in the Turkish press on
8 and 9 March show that the news media are classified according to their
support for government policies and that the procedures for issuing press
accreditation are used to undermine critical newspapers and journalists and
reward those that support the armed forces, Reporters Without Borders said
today
    "We condemn this use of black-lists and these attempts to neutralise
journalists by depriving them of their raw material, information," the press
freedom organisation said. "The armed forces like to portray themselves as the
guardians of society and yet they try to gag those journalists they consider
to be troublesome. Such procedures are not compatible with democratic
principles. The Turkish should abandon such practices aimed at influencing the
media."
    Reporters Without Borders said it supported the protests voiced by the
Turkish Association of Journalists (TGC), the Contemporary Association of
Journalists (CGD), the Union of Journalists of Turkey (TGS) and the Press
Council (Basin Konseyi) against the methods of the army high command and the
prime minister's office.
    Noting that these organisations said the accreditation system had always
been problematic in Turkey, Reporters Without Borders added: "Like them, we
hope that the outcry about these reports will help to shake up this system and
change these practices."
    The aim of the leaked high command's report, written in November 2006 by
the army's departmental directorate for public relations and published on
8 March, was to evaluate the "loyalty" of the media towards the Turkish Armed
Forces (FAT) and to ban those regarded as weakest from attending or
participating in military activities such as news conference and guided tours.
    The report's authors were fully aware of the harm done by a refusal to
issue accreditation. The report included this comment: "Not granting
accreditation to media regarded as not very credible has also contributed to
these media being held in low esteem by the public."
    The report analysed the editorial line of 19 daily newspapers, 18 TV
stations, eight magazines and five news agencies. There is no mention of any
pro-Islamist media as the army refuses to grant them any accreditation as a
matter of principle.
    A footnote said this about the daily Radikal: "This is a newspaper that
the FAT should follow closely. It is liable at times to differentiate itself
on the subject of the FAT. During the period March-July 2005, the newspaper
employed the term 'death' for the FAT martyrs. This elicited criticism. The
subject was raised on 21 July 2005 during a briefing for the media and the
newspaper has since improved its editorial line thanks to the sensitivity of
the managing editor, Ismet Barkan."
    As a result, the army recommended that the newspaper's accreditation
should be renewed but that the four columnist who had criticised the FAT -
Nuray Mert, Yildirim Turker, Murat Belge and Hasan Celal Guzel - should not
receive individual accreditation.
    The army report recommended that accreditation of the UK-based Jane's
Defence Weekly should be maintained but that its correspondent,
Lale Sariibrahimoglu, should not be invited to FAT activities for journalists.
Her accreditation had already been cancelled by the army when she wrote for
the conservative daily Bugun.
    In a final example, the report noted that Erol Mutercimler, the presenter
of the programme "Press Club," was a fierce critic of the army, even getting
into conspiracy theory. It recommended that his TV station's accreditation
should be provisionally suspended and that the station's owner, Ufuk Guldemir,
and some of its journalists, should be barred from military activities for the
press.
    On 9 March, the day after the leaked report was first published, the army
issued a press release announcing a judicial investigation, without saying
whether it was an internal investigation or one targeted at the media that had
published the report.
    The same day, the daily Cumhuriyet published an article on the "Monthly
report by the prime minister's office," consisting of a sort of classification
of the media. The prime minister's press office described the article as
"unreal and deliberate" and insisted that "no such report has ever been
submitted to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan."
    According to the newspaper, the report even included the fact that
journalists Nuray Basaran, Enis Berberoglu, Oral Calislar and Gungvr Uras
drank 2002 vintage Syrah Calvet French red wine during a visit to Lebanon on
5 July 2005.
    The Islamist daily Yeni Safak (New Dawn) is identified in the report as
an essential support for Prime Minister Erdogan and his government. The
committed Islamist daily Vakit (Time) is praised for "deflecting criticism of
the government over the Muslim headscarf"and the Islamist daily Zaman is
praised for being "free of prejudice towards any group or person."
    Other newspapers are not held in such high esteem. The republican
Cumhuriyet is "rarely objective," the liberal centrist Millyet is said to have
improved after Sedat Ergin became its editor and "the articles and content
became more positive." The liberal right daily Sabah (Morning) is accused of
becoming more negative, publishing fewer stories about the government and
putting them on the inside paged when it did.
    As for the liberal right newspaper Hurriyet (Freedom), the report says it
"no longer puts the government's activities on its front page since its
leading journalists were not allowed on the prime minister's plane during and
his US visit, and the reports on the government are quite short."
    The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, has said Turkey will not
be able to meet democratic standards as long as the army continues to exercise
influence over non-military matters. The Turkish Armed Forces, which often
portray themselves as a bulwark against Islamism, have seized power three
times, the last one in 1980.

    Reporters Without Borders defends imprisoned journalists and press
freedom throughout the world. It has nine national sections (Austria, Belgium,
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland). It has
representatives in Bangkok, London, New York, Tokyo and Washington. And it has
more than 120 correspondents worldwide.




For further information:

For further information: Emily Jacquard, Canadian office representative,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4208, Fax: (514)
521-7771, rsfcanada@rsf.org

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