Turkish research critiques Western media freedom claims

ANKARA: Turkey's General Directorate of Press and Information (BYEGM) on Friday accused countries critical of Turkey's media environment of turning a blind eye to press freedoms in their own jurisdictions.

Research compiled by the body questioned Western states' claims that freedom of the press was unlimited in their countries.

Recalling that among the countries frequently criticizing Turkey were France, Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Spain, the Netherlands and the U.S., the BYEGM research questioned whether journalists and other media workers were able to work freely in these nations.

The research presented examples of constraints and censorship faced by media workers in those countries.

In the U.K., the recently passed Investigatory Powers Act gives telecoms providers the authority to monitor and share personal information. The BYEGM said "48 government agencies under the U.K. government are also able to see information deleted by users".

"It is known that the bill is prepared in the scope of cyber-crime and the fight against terrorism. The law draws attention for its similarity to the law which allows Turkey to temporarily store information of internet users in the fight against terrorism," statement added.

The statement pointed to an event in 2013 when technical staff from the British intelligence agency -- the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) -- oversaw the destruction of hard drives containing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

The GCHQ staff members were present at the offices of the Guardian newspaper, to which the former CIA employee leaked documents from the U.S. National Security Agency.

A threat of legal action had forced the newspaper into physically destroying the computer disks.

The BYEGM said the French authorities had also banned a photojournalist from entering a protest area during demonstrations this year over opposition to a draft labor law.

In May: "Photographs shot by a journalist showing protesters living in the city of Rennes were deleted by police officers, and the police, in the same demonstration, beat a France 3 cameraman.

The Anti-Terror Law adopted in 2014 foresees up to five years in prison and 75,000 euros [$80,000] in penalties for crimes committed by praising terrorism on the Internet," the BYEGM added.

France has maintained a state of emergency, brought in following mass-casualty terrorist attacks in Paris, November 2015.

In Germany, the BYEGM research said a case was filed in 2005 against journalists from a publication called Weekly Focus. Josef Hufelschulte and Erich Schmidt-Eenboom faced legal action for reporting on the activities of the German intelligence service during the Iraq war.

The duo was accused of exposing state secrets. Another German magazine, called Cicero, was raided in Sept. 2005 by the police over the same accusations.

In Sweden this year, a "July 15 -- Backstage of the Bloody Coup Attempt" panel was canceled and Turkish journalists were not allowed to speak, the BYEGM said.

Friday's BYEGM statement recalled an incident in October involving a Canadian journalist called Edward Ou who wanted to shoot video of Native Americans protesting against a pipeline planned for Dakota state in the U.S.

"He [Ou] was not allowed to enter the U.S.," the BYEGM said, adding: "Edward Ou was held at the border for six hours and during this time his telephone and cameras were confiscated.

In the U.S. 14 journalists, including Anadolu Agency, Die Welt and Bild correspondents were arrested amid unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, following the fatal police shooting of a black man in 2014.

The BYEGM went on to state: "In Baltimore incidents, City Paper's photo editor JM Giardano was beaten by the police and photographer Sait Serkan Gurbuz, who was working for Reuters, was taken into custody.

In July 2016 the Middle East correspondent of the Wall Street Journal, Maria Abi-Habib, was taken into custody by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on the grounds that she was a journalist 'traveling dangerous locations'".

The BYEGM cited French Marxist theorist Guy Debord's Society of the Spectacle, which read: The spectacle is the existing order's uninterrupted discourse about itself, its laudatory monologue.

Western democracies are trying to make Turkey a part of the 'society of the spectacle' they built but they did not obey its rules," the BYEGM statement added.

Source: Anadolu Agency