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.


EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech

Updated 15 June 2021

EU court backs national data watchdog powers in blow to Facebook, big tech

  • EU court supports national data watchdogs to pursue big tech firms.
  • The ruling could encourage national agencies to act against US tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Apple.

BRUSSELS: Europe’s top court on Tuesday endorsed the power of national data watchdogs to pursue big tech firms even if they are not their lead regulators, in a setback for Silicon Valley companies such as Facebook.

The EU Court of Justice (CJEU) ruling could encourage national agencies to act against US tech companies such as Google, Twitter and Apple, which all have their European Union headquarters in Ireland.

Many national watchdogs in the 27-member European Union have long complained about their Irish counterpart, saying that it takes too long to decide on cases.

Ireland has dismissed this, saying it has to be extra meticulous in dealing with powerful and well-funded tech giants.

The CJEU got involved after a Belgian court sought guidance on Facebook’s challenge against the territorial competence of the Belgian data watchdog’s bid to stop it from tracking users in Belgium through cookies stored in the company’s social plug-ins, regardless of whether they have an account or not.

“Under certain conditions, a national supervisory authority may exercise its power to bring any alleged infringement of the GDPR before a court of a member state, even though that authority is not the lead supervisory authority with regard to that processing,” the EU Court of Justice (CJEU) said.

Under landmark EU privacy rules known as GDPR, Facebook faces oversight by the Irish privacy authority because it has its European head office in Ireland.

The case is C-645/19 Facebook Ireland & Others.


YouTube bans masthead ads for politics, alcohol and bets

YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

YouTube bans masthead ads for politics, alcohol and bets

  • Youtube will no longer allow political, election, alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs ads at the top of the site's homepage.
  • The change to its most prominent ad unit was effective immediately, said Google.

Alphabet Inc’s YouTube will no longer allow political or election ads in its coveted masthead spot at the top of the site’s homepage nor ads for alcohol, gambling and prescription drugs, it said on Monday.

In an email to advertisers, seen by Reuters, YouTube said the change built on its move last year to retire all full-day masthead ads. It said it has retired these full-day reservations, like the one then-President Donald Trump reserved to dominate its homepage on Election Day 2020, and replaced them with more targeted formats.

“We regularly review our advertising requirements to ensure they balance the needs of both advertisers and users,” a Google spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We believe this update will build on changes we made last year to the masthead reservation process and will lead to a better experience for users,” they added.

Google said that the change to its most prominent ad unit, which was first reported by Axios, was effective immediately.

Google paused political ads altogether around the US presidential election and again ahead of President Joe Biden’s inauguration in January this year, citing its policy over sensitive events.


New news channel launches in UK and wants to shake things up

Observers have drawn comparisons between the US-based Fox News and GB News. (Twitter)
Updated 15 June 2021

New news channel launches in UK and wants to shake things up

  • GB News launched on Sunday with the aim of changing the current media landscape in the UK.
  • A rival to BBC and Sky News, GB News wants to offer viewers a more opinionated service.

LONDON: A new news channel launched on British television on Sunday evening with the aim of shaking up a media landscape that it claims has become an echo chamber for metropolitan elites.

GB News, which is positioning itself as a rival to the BBC and Sky News, denies it will be the British equivalent of Fox News.

However, the channel, which has been backed by New York-based Discovery and British investor Paul Marshall, among others, clearly wants to do things differently, offering viewers a more opinionated service than they are used to.

“We are proud to be British,” veteran broadcaster Andrew Neil said during the launch. “The clue is in the name.”

Neil, the new channel’s chairman who has previously edited the Sunday Times newspaper and was a long-standing political interviewer for the BBC, told viewers that GB News will “expose the growing promotion of cancel culture” and will give a voice “to those who feel sidelined or silenced.”

Neil, 72, launched the channel with an hour-long introduction to the presenting line-up, many of whom have been enticed away from the BBC and Sky News.

In his opening monologue, Neil said GB News would cover “the stories that matter to you and those that have been neglected” and would deliver “a huge range of voices that reflect the views and values of our United Kingdom.”

GB News, he added “will not slavishly follow the existing news agenda” and would not be “another echo chamber for the metropolitan mindset that already dominates so much of the media.”

The launch was not without technical issues, including a microphone glitch when Neil was chatting with one of the channel’s presenters, Neil Oliver.
GB News will broadcast seven days a week across the UK and Ireland and will be available globally on digital platforms.

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Germany seeks to fine operators of Telegram messenger app

Telegram, which was founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, has grown in popularity in Germany in recent years. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

Germany seeks to fine operators of Telegram messenger app

  • Germany launches proceedings against Telegram for failing to abide by laws requiring social media sites to cooperate with authorities.
  • The company could face fines of up to 5.5 million euros ($6.7 million) if it doesn’t comply with the requirements.

BERLIN: German authorities have launched proceedings against Telegram that could see the messenger app’s operators fined for failing to abide by laws requiring social media sites to police their users’ actions.

German magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that officials believe use of the Telegram app has reached a threshold where it can be treated in the same way as Facebook, Twitter and TikTok when it comes to requiring cooperation with German authorities.

A Justice Ministry spokeswoman confirmed Monday that authorities have written to Telegram’s operators in the United Arab Emirates over its failure to provide a channel for raising complaints and a contact person in Germany.

“The company now has the opportunity to respond,” the spokeswoman, Rabea Boennighausen, told reporters in Berlin.

Der Spiegel reported that the company could face fines of up to 5.5 million euros ($6.7 million) if it doesn’t comply with the requirements.
Telegram didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Telegram, which was founded by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov, has grown in popularity in Germany in recent years, including among right-wing groups and those opposed to the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Germany parliament passed the Network Enforcement Act in 2017 with the stated goal of ensuring that the country’s existing limits on speech, including the long-standing ban on Holocaust denial, can be enforced online.

Opponents have argued that the law risks stifling free speech.


Myanmar court frees one of two detained US journalists

About 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, according to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2021

Myanmar court frees one of two detained US journalists

  • US journalist Nathan Maung was freed from Myanmar prison after charges against him were dropped.
  • The other American journalist, Danny Fenster, remains incarcerated.

BANGKOK: A court in Myanmar has released US journalist Nathan Maung, who was arrested three months ago while working for a local online news agency, his lawyer said Monday.

Maung was released after charges against him were dropped and his case dismissed, and he will be deported on Tuesday, lawyer Tin Zar Oo said. However, a colleague at Kamayut Media who was arrested with him, Myanmar national Hanthar Nyein, remains in prison, she said.

Another American journalist working for a news magazine in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, also remains incarcerated. Fenster is managing editor of Frontier Myanmar, which publishes in both English and Burmese and also online. He was detained at Yangon’s airport on June 24 as he was preparing to board a flight to Malaysia en route to the Detroit area to see his family.

Myanmar’s military junta, which seized power in February after ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced broad opposition to its rule and seeks to quell all dissent. Critical media voices have been forced underground or into exile.

According to Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, about 90 journalists have been arrested since the army’s takeover, with more than half still in detention, and 33 in hiding.

The US government and rights groups have urged the junta to respect freedom of expression and stop harassment and arrests of journalists. It pressed repeatedly for the release of Maung and Fenster.

Two other foreign journalists have been arrested by the junta. Freelancers Robert Bociaga of Poland and Yuki Kitazumi of Japan have since been deported.

Maung, the Kamayut website’s editor-in-chief, and Hanthar Nyein, a news producer, were arrested on March 9. They were held at a military interrogation center in Yangon, Myanmar’s biggest city, before being transferred to Insein Prison, the country’s main detention facility for political prisoners.

The two men, who co-founded the news outlet, were charged under a section of the penal code that punishes “dissemination of information or ‘fake news’ that could agitate or cause security forces or officials to mutiny” with a maximum three-year prison term, according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.

Tin Zar Oo said Nathan Maung is being held an extra day for a COVID-19 test before taking a flight out of the country on Tuesday. She said he is able to reclaim most of his belongings, but that $1,600 and about $4,250 in Myanmar’s currency are missing.