RSF condemns “patriotic coverage” of Afrin operation in Turkey

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned censorship on the media over Turkish military invasion in Afrin.

In a statement released on the organization’s homepage RSF said, “Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the increase in censorship in Turkey – including “patriotic journalism” directives and a wave of arrests of critical journalists – that has accompanied the Turkish government’s three-day-old military offensive against Kurdish fighters in northwestern Syria’s Afrin region”.

Citing the meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and editors of Turkey’s leading media outlets RSF said that the journalists were given 15 “recommendations” on how to cover the military operations in a “patriotic” manner.

According to RSF, journalists were told to “take account of national interests when quoting international news sources critical of Turkey,” to “remember the care taken by the armed forces not to harm civilians” and to “not highlight demonstrations and statements” by political organisations that “support” Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

“In essence, the aim of the directives is to put the Turkish media at the service of the government and its war goals” RSF said.

RSF provided further details about the meeting: “The prime minister told them to avoid “news reports liable to boost the morale” of the PKK and the PYD, a Syrian Kurdish party, and to contact the government and AKP representatives “to get good information.” He also told them to mistrust reports in the international media, claiming that the PYD uses many foreign journalists, especially in the United States and Europe.”

“The new flood of propaganda, the increase in the witchhunt against critics and the almost complete absence of any debate about this military offensive all highlight the degree to which pluralism has collapsed in Turkey,” said Johann Bihr, the head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk.

“Not content with its stranglehold on the media landscape, the government is now trying to assert complete control over everything that the media report, at the risk of undermining public trust and fuelling tension” he said.