Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) has filed a criminal complaint against SETA Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research on grounds that their report titled “International Media Outlets’ Extensions in Turkey” identifies journalists who work for international media outlets as targets.
In the petition addressed to the Ankara Chief Prosecutor’s Office, MLSA claimed that pro-government think tank SETA’s report constitutes the following crimes: “inciting the public to hatred, hostility or degrading,” “recording of personal data,” and “provocation to commit an offense.”
MLSA’s petition reminded the judicial bodies of their legal liabilities and demanded the rights of journalists who have been targeted and threatened as a result of this report to be protected. MLSA also requested the Chief Prosecutor’s Office to take legal action against SETA Foundation, arguing that the institution blacklists and identifies journalists as targets while sharing their personal data with the public in an unlawful manner.
Lawyer Ok: ‘This document is structured like a police investigation report’
MLSA Co-Director lawyer Veysel Ok gave the following statement about the criminal complaint that was filed earlier today: “The document that SETA Foundation circulated on its social media accounts is far from being a scientific report and is a document that blacklists journalists who practice independent journalism. This document does a poor job of attempting to question the listed journalists’ perception of work. It is structured like a police investigation report and attempts to link journalists to terrorism.
Sharing the personal data, professional background, news stories, tweets and even retweets of journalists with the public is an attempt to identify them as a target. The structure and logic of the document clearly serves this purpose. As MLSA, we requested SETA Foundation to give an account for this outrageous document before law.
Furthermore, this is not the first ‘memorandum’ we’ve seen against journalists. We’ve seen a similar one during the February 28th  period as well. Journalists and human rights advocates who were blacklisted during that period have been harassed legally. There was even a suicide attempt against Akın Birdal. In this way, this document SETA has prepared puts journalists’ lives in danger as well.”
The report criminalizes journalistic activities and journalists’ social media posts and is designed almost like an indictment while evaluating and criticizing the editorial policies of BBC Turkey, Deutsche Welle Turkish, Voice of America (VOA) Turkish, Sputnik Turkey, Euronews Turkey, China Radio International (CRI) Turkey, and Independent Turkish. The report includes screenshots from these outlets’ news reports and lists of journalists who work for them. In these comprehensive lists, the journalists’ academic and professional background as well as patterns of their Twitter posts have been listed one by one with screenshots included.
SETA’s report attempts to criminalize legitimate acts of journalism and tweets, further claiming that retweeting posts from RSF Turkey, Evrensel, BirGün and Gazete Duvar constitutes “having an anti-government stance.” The report makes many claims such as “it is clear that they use anti-government language,” and “draws attention by making accusatory claims against the government on speculative issues” about specific journalists by using their tweets as “evidence.” The report drew heavy criticism from many journalists and professional bodies since its publication, claiming that it functions against a memorandum for independent journalism.
Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) has also filed a separate complaint earlier today. “This situation shows that a group of press employees are under serious threat and that they might be subjected to more serious and close threats in the future,” TGS Chair Gökhan Durmuş stated during their press brief.
In response to the growing criticism against their report, SETA has released a public statement, claiming that this report was their attempt to make a concrete and scientific contribution to the discussions on whether international media outlets were engaging in multivocal and objective reporting in Turkey, rejecting claims that the report was a memorandum against dissident journalists.