Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists

Above, Turkish female anchor Ebru Baki. (Supplied)
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Updated 07 May 2021

Turkey ranks highest in world for attacks and threats against female journalists

ANKARA: A new report from the Coalition for Women In Journalism (CFWIJ) states that Turkey is “the leading country for attacks and threats against women journalists” this year.

Between January and April, 114 female journalists were attacked or threatened in Turkey the New York-based media organization revealed — more than in any other country in the world.

The CFWIJ’s First Quarterly Report for 2021 coincidentally coincided with Izzet Ulvi Yonter, deputy leader of the Turkish government’s coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), targeting female anchor Ebru Baki for her coverage of the MHP’s draft constitution proposal.

Yonter referred to the broadcaster as a “so-called journalist who distorts the facts and shows her intolerance against the MHP,” and said her attempts to “discredit” their draft proposal were “offensive and crude.”

Yonter’s criticism was followed on May 5 by the resignation of Bulent Aydemir, Haberturk TV’s chief editor and Baki’s co-anchor on the morning program.

The program was taken off air on Thursday, triggering a nationwide social media campaign using “I don’t watch Haberturk TV” as hashtag.

CFWIJ’s report said that, in Turkey, “Almost 50 women journalists appeared before the court to fight baseless charges; 20 suffered heavy workplace bullying at the newsrooms; 15 female journalists were subjected to police violence while covering the news, 14 were detained; three women journalists were sentenced to prison, and three were expelled. While one journalist was threatened with intimidation, another became the target of racist rhetoric” during the period covered.

Scott Griffen, deputy director at the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of journalists and editors defending media freedom, told Arab News: “Women journalists face a double threat: They are attacked for their work and they are attacked for their gender — a reflection of … sexism in society. IPI’s own research has shown that online attacks on female journalists tend to be more vicious and the insults and threats are often of a sexual nature.”

According to Griffen, attacks on women journalists are part of a broader trend, which is an effort by those in power to smear and undermine critical journalism and diverse voices.

Referring to Yonter’s attack on Baki, he said: “This incident shows that a political party, in this case the MHP, is unable to accept criticism and simply does not — or does not want to — understand the role of journalism in society. Politicians are required to accept criticism, even harsh criticism. Ebru Baki was doing her job, and the attacks on her are unacceptable.”

Griffen thinks that one consequence of these attacks is the risk of a rise in self-censorship.

“Journalists who are faced with such vicious attacks may decide to reconsider their reporting to avoid such abuse in the future, or they may even decide to leave the profession. And this is a huge loss for the public,” he said. “It means that stories are not being told, and diverse voices are not being heard. And, of course, that is what the attackers want. They wish to push critical voices out of the public sphere.”

Male journalists in Turkey have also been the targets of verbal and physical attacks. Recently, dissident journalist Levent Gultekin was beaten by a mob in the middle of a street in Istanbul, shortly after he criticized the MHP and its former leader. Gultekin was verbally attacked by the MHP deputy leader just before the assault.

“The crackdown against critical and independent media in Turkey is worsening every single day with new attacks from political figures. And female journalists who are reporting on critical issues that are sensitive to the government or its political allies are not immune from the attacks,” Renan Akyavas, Turkey program coordinator of IPI, told Arab News.

IPI’s own recent research also confirms that female journalists are more likely targets of online harassment for their critical reporting and views, she added.

The trend of public figures targeting journalists to silence dissident voices has been on the rise, Akyavas said. “We especially see an increasing trend of attacks by the ultra-nationalist MHP’s leaders and representatives to intimidate journalists, even in response to mild criticism.

“The targeting of Ebru Baki and Haberturk TV is only the latest example of this attitude, which is simply unacceptable coming from a governing alliance party. The MHP leadership must … protect fundamental rights and the safety of journalists, instead of threatening them,” she continued.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention — and the protection it provided against domestic violence — in March triggered further threats and violence against women reporters, the CFWIJ report underlined.

Akyavas agrees. “The withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention had been a huge disappointment for women in Turkey fighting for their rights and gender equality. Impunity for crimes and violence against women has become a new norm for the country,” she said, adding that this trend will cease only if Turkish authorities show a genuine will to protect and implement women’s rights.

“Women journalists in Turkey must continue their courageous reporting, as their fundamental rights and freedom of expression were guaranteed and fully protected by the Turkish constitution. At IPI, we will continue our solidarity with them and our support for critical and independent journalism to provide the public with factual, objective news,” Akyavas continued.

The Turkish Journalists’ Association, TGC, released a statement on Thursday criticizing the way women journalists have been targeted by the MHP just because they smiled on air. “Such an attitude targets our colleagues’ safety and security. We call on the government and its partners to respect the law,” it noted.


Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong

The final edition was a tribute to its readers with the heThe final edition was a tribute to its readers with the headline: “Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain.” (AFP)adline: Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain. (AFP)
Updated 57 min 54 sec ago

Heartbreak in newsroom as Apple Daily bids farewell to Hong Kong

  • Staff at the Hong Kong's pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily bid farewell as the paper prints its last edition on Thursday.
  • Hundreds of Hong Kong residents gathered in the rain outside Apple Daily offices where a million copies were being printed.

HONG KONG: Apple Daily cub reporter Yau Ting-leung could not sleep much. Tired, he lay in bed on Wednesday morning checking the news.
The 23-year-old had been in his dream job at the pro-democracy tabloid for less than a year, but now things were unraveling.
Six days after a police raid on Apple, the arrests of its top two editors and a freeze of core assets on national security grounds, the company was running out of cash and options.
Final publication was set for Saturday, with a skeleton crew putting out the last of the roughly 9,500 editions of the paper.
“At 11:30 a.m. the news came that they’d arrested our lead columnist,” Yau told Reuters. “At that moment, I just felt numb.”
Soon afterward, the board decided it would be the last day for the feisty Chinese-language publication that combined celebrity gossip with investigations of the powerful.
Yau, the youngest member of the paper’s investigative team, ignored a warning from management to stay home, showing up at the office in an isolated industrial estate. Many others did the same.
With Apple’s website and 26 years’ worth of content to be purged at midnight, time was running out.
“I didn’t have to write anything today. I was put in charge of saving our work, including our award-winning reports,” said Yau, who is three years younger than Apple Daily. But he was unable to finish: “No matter how hard I tried to back up ... there just wasn’t enough time.”
Ten meters from Yau, Norman Choi was at work on a story. This time, though, it was an obituary for Apple Daily.
Surrounded by the clutter of 22 years at the paper, including crackers and empty liquor bottles, the 51-year-old senior features editor clacked away at his keyboard, wearing a black mask and clothes.
As he tried to focus, Choi had a mountain of other tasks, such as taking down slogans beside his desk.
“I’m not deliberately staying behind. I just don’t want to leave my fellow reporters,” he said.
Deputy chief editor Chan Pui-man, out on bail after her arrest, wandered the open-plan newsroom with its “I love Apple” logos on the wall, red-eyed at times.
“It’s hard to control our emotions,” she said.

APPLE TREE
As news of the paper’s impending closure spread, staff could see and hear crowds gathering outside. Some chanted “Thank you Apple Daily — Add oil!” a Chinese expression of encouragement that had become a refrain among supporters of the paper.
Around midnight, the first warm copies of the record 1 million to be printed — more than 10 times the usual press run — came off the presses and were handed out to the cheering crowd.
Ryan Law, 47, Apple Daily’s editor-in-chief, told Reuters before his arrest, “No matter what happens to us, you can’t kill the people who read Apple Daily.”
Photographer Harry Long, and his pictures team did not have to venture far for their last front-page image.
They settled on a shot from the roof showing the people, many with umbrellas, and vehicles clogging the normally quiet street below. Beside the picture, the headline read: “Hong Kongers bid a painful farewell in the rain.”
Lights from mobile phones twinkle up from the supporters.
“I’m heartbroken,” Long said.
Yau waved down from the roof with his own mobile phone, hugging colleagues soon to be out of a job.
“We would all suddenly start crying as we just couldn’t bear to see this end,” he said. But at the same time, “everyone was happy too. That we could all work through this last day together, united in doing this one thing.”
Choi, the features editor, found the public support touching.
“It’s the first time so many readers come and support us here, and I know it’s the last time,” he said. Their showing up “means everything in my career in Apple Daily, and in my life.”
Papers were stacked and loaded onto lorries and vans and whisked to newsstands across the city of 7.5 million.
At a kiosk in the working class district of Mong Kok, hundreds queued around the block to snap up a copy. Some chanted “Liberate Hong Kong — Revolution of our Times,” the rallying cry of the city’s mass anti-China protests in 2019.
The last edition carried a farewell letter from Chan, the deputy chief editor.
“When an apple is buried beneath the soil, its seed will become a tree filled with bigger and more beautiful apples.
“Love you all forever, love Hong Kong forever.”


Bangladeshi cleric issues fatwa on Facebook emoji

Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online. (File/AFP)
Updated 24 June 2021

Bangladeshi cleric issues fatwa on Facebook emoji

  • A prominent Bangladeshi cleric has issued a fatwa against people using Facebook’s “haha” emoji to mock people.
  • He posted a three-minute video in which he discussed the mocking of people on Facebook and issued a fatwa.

DHAKA: A prominent Muslim Bangladeshi cleric with a huge online following has issued a fatwa against people using Facebook’s “haha” emoji to mock people.
Ahmadullah, who uses one name, has more than three million followers on Facebook and YouTube. He regularly appears on television shows to discuss religious issues in the Muslim-majority country.
On Saturday he posted a three-minute video in which he discussed the mocking of people on Facebook and issued a fatwa, an Islamic edict, explaining how it is “totally haram (forbidden)” for Muslims.
“Nowadays we use Facebook’s haha emojis to mock people,” Ahmadullah said in the video, which has since been viewed more than two million times.
“If we react with haha emojis purely out of fun and the same was intended by the person who posted the content, it’s fine.
“But if your reaction was intended to mock or ridicule people who posted or made comments on social media, it’s totally forbidden in Islam,” Ahmadullah added.
“For God’s sake I request you to refrain from this act. Do not react with ‘haha’ to mock someone. If you hurt a Muslim he may respond with bad language that would be unexpected.”
Thousands of followers reacted to his video, most of them positively, although several hundred made fun of it — using the “haha” emoji.
Ahmadullah is among Bangladesh’s new crop of Internet-savvy Islamic preachers who have drawn millions of followers online.
Their commentaries on religious and social issues are hugely popular, drawing millions of views per video.
Some have earned notoriety with bizarre claims on the origin of the coronavirus. A few are accused of preaching hatred, while several have turned into celebrities for their fun-filled videos.


Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon. (File/Twitter)
Updated 24 June 2021

Dutch journalist held in Greece for sheltering asylum seeker

  • Dutch journalist, Ingeborg Beugel, faces a year in prison and a hefty fine in Greece for sheltering an Afghan asylum seeker.
  • Beugel had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by Greek police earlier in the day.

ATHENS: A Dutch journalist faces a year in prison and a 5000-euro ($6,000) fine in Greece after police arrested her for sheltering a young Afghan asylum seeker, her lawyer said Wednesday.
Ingeborg Beugel, 61, says she spent the night in a police cell earlier this month on the island of Hydra and was taken handcuffed to court under a 30-year-old law designed to discourage assistance to Albanians who came to Greece illegally at the time.
Since coming to power in 2019, the conservative Greek government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has toughened migration and asylum laws.
Beugel’s lawyer Vassilis Papadopoulos told AFP that being convicted for sheltering a migrant would be “very unusual in Greece.”
A correspondent for Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer, Beugel was arrested on June 13 in Hydra where she has lived on and off with her children for the past 40 years.
She had been trying to help her 23-year-old Afghan guest Fridoon, who had been picked up by police earlier in the day.
After spending the night in a police cell, Beugel said she was put on a ferry to a court in Piraeus, handcuffed to Fridoon.
Having alerted the Dutch embassy in Athens, she was soon released and her court case was postponed to October.
“The clause in the law is about hiding undocumented migrants. I have never hidden that Fridoon lives with me,” Beugel told De Groene Amsterdammer, which reported on her story.
In an interview with AFP, Beugel said a police officer told her that “angry islanders had called the police, anonymously.”
She added that Fridoon only became “’illegal’ involuntarily” as the Greek Asylum Service was closed for months due to the pandemic and he was unable to meet specific deadlines.
He fled Kabul because his father and uncle were killed by the Taliban, and arrived in Lesbos in 2015, Beugel said.
“He has had two asylum applications rejected because in July 2017 when he had to tell his story to the Greek Asylum Service, he got a translator who wrote his story wrong in Greek. It took years to correct that wrongdoing, and he is now entitled to another attempt,” she told AFP.
In 2017 in a similar case, Cedric Herrou, a French national, was sentenced to four months in prison and a fine of 3,000 euros for sheltering migrants. He was acquitted on appeal in 2020.


British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

British minister urges same rules for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. (File/AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

British minister urges same rules for streaming services, broadcasters -Times

  • British government draw plans to make streaming services follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, says Culture Secretary.
  • The government will consult on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters

June 23 : Britain’s streaming services and broadcasters should be on a level playing field, as traditional broadcasters now compete with “one hand tied behind their backs,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said on Wednesday.
Dowden is to unveil plans for a white paper on broadcasting that aims to make streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ follow the code of British regulator Ofcom, he said in the Times newspaper “Every “linear” broadcaster — BBC, Sky and so on — has to comply with stringent content and audience protection standards,” Dowden said in an article published on Wednesday.
“You might assume the same is true of video-on-demand services such as Amazon Prime and Disney+. You’d be wrong.”
The government will consult this summer on whether it is time to set the same basic rules for video-on-demand services as is done for traditional broadcasters, he added.
“The white paper will also set out proposals on how we ensure public service broadcasters are given sufficient visibility...online, and ensure viewers can continue to find and watch original and high-quality British programs.”
Separately, Britain’s Conservative government said it plans to sell Channel 4, launched 39 years ago as an alternative to the BBC and ITV, to help secure its future as a public service broadcaster.
“In summer I will consult on the sale of Channel 4,” Dowden wrote, adding that he would proceed on the lines that an alternative ownership model retaining the broadcaster’s public service remit would better serve both it and Britain.


Trial of Moroccan journalists raises fears of repression

Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial. (AFP)
Updated 23 June 2021

Trial of Moroccan journalists raises fears of repression

  • The trail of the two Moroccan journalists accused of sexual assault have raised fears of increasing state repression.
  • Rights activists believe the authorities are using pre-trial detention to target political opponents by applying the law unevenly.

CASABLANCA: New hearings took place on Tuesday in the trials of two dissident journalists in Morocco accused of sexual assault, whose detention rights groups see as evidence of increasing state repression and a push to silence dissent.
The two men, Soulimane Raisouni and Omar Radi, who both deny the accusations against them, have spent a year in pre-trial detention and Raisouni has been on hunger strike for over two months, raising concerns about his health.
The cases have brought into focus fears that the ruling authorities are increasingly intolerant of dissent and will manipulate Moroccan law to silence critics, a group of rights organizations said in April.
“What remains of press freedom in Morocco is under siege, and those who dare to publicly criticize the increasingly repressive regime face prosecution on dubious charges and slander campaigns,” said the groups, which included Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.
The Moroccan government and the judiciary deny that the prosecution is politically motivated. The plaintiffs in the cases accuse the rights groups of ignoring what they call their own quest for justice in a system that has often shielded sexual abusers.
The Minister in charge of Human Rights, Mustapha Ramid, did not respond to Reuters calls or messages but has previously described Morocco as “neither a hell nor a paradise for human rights.”
The government says the judiciary is independent in line with Morocco’s 2011 constitution and that courts implement national law.

OUTSPOKEN CRITICS
Rights activists believe the authorities are using pre-trial detention to target political opponents by applying the law unevenly. Raisouni and Radi are outspoken critics of public policy, the judiciary and Morocco’s human rights record.
“There was no written justification for this pre-trial detention,” said Ahmed Benchemsi of Human Rights Watch, who was observing the trial.
Several other cases have been brought against prominent dissidents over the past two years, including a historian accused of money laundering and another journalist, Raisouni’s niece, who was convicted of having an illegal abortion.
“The detention of Soulaiman and Omar is vindictive because of their work as journalists and their human rights activism,” said the niece, Hajjar Raisouni, who was pardoned in 2019.
Radi, a journalist and activist, has been held since July last year on charges of raping a woman and spying, which he also denies. The court in Casablanca will on Tuesday hear the core of the charges against him.
Raisouni, a newspaper editor detained in May 2020, is accused of sexually assaulting a man. Hearings on his case have focused on whether he is well enough to stand trial, with the prosecution accusing him of delaying tactics.
His wife and defense team say his hunger strike has left him dangerously ill and that he should be in hospital. Prison authorities and the state-appointed National Human Rights Council have said his health is stable.
Lawyers for the pair said their detention before the trial was arbitrary and “a violation of the presumption of innocence,” adding that both men had provided guarantees of attending the trial.
Raisouni’s accuser, publicly identified only as “Adam,” told Reuters that efforts to cast the case as political were denying his right to justice and accused rights groups of failing to support the LGBTQ community in Morocco.
Radi’s accuser, Hafsa Boutahar, his colleague, said she was “speaking up for all raped women” and accused rights groups of victim-blaming.
Morocco’s national press union has called for the provisional release of the two journalists but defended the right of the plaintiff to seek justice in a fair trial.