Saturday Headlines

Turkey’s Handling Of Foreign Media Drawing Criticism
It is not uncommon to hear stories about the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan cracking down on media within Turkey, but in recent weeks, foreign correspondents have made similar charges.

According to The Turkish Weekly, reports of police harassment and other repressive actions have risen sharply in recent weeks. In some cases, the harassment goes beyond here intimidation to deportation and demands that reporters hand over their cell phones and laptops for inspection as a condition for being able to continue from the airport to their destinations within Turkey.

“More than half a dozen others, including Sam Tarling, a Beirut-based freelance news photographer who works mainly for London’s Daily Telegraph, have confirmed they were given no alternative but to divulge their phone and laptop passwords, if they wanted to continue with onward travel.

EU governments have gone on the record with the Erdogan government with their concerns, and officials in the US also raised their voices after Turkish handlers in Washington, DC for the nuclear security summit tried to limit access.

Events came to a head outside of the Brookings Institution last week when security detail for Erdogan pushed, shoved and kicked reporters covering the Turkish president’s speech.

Brookings’ President Strobe Talbott threatened to cancel Erdogan’s planned speech and the abuse of reporters drew criticism from the National Press Club.

“We have increasingly seen disrespect for basic human rights and press freedom in Turkey,” said Thomas Burr, the president of the National Press Club. “Erdogan doesn’t get to export such abuse.”

Use Of Soft Power Needed To Counter Russian Disinformation
Although its role in the downfall of the Soviet Union has been underplayed, a robust media can play a critical part in countering dictatorial regimes that are oppressing their populations. Radio Free Europe and the Voice of America were critical components of America’s use of “soft power” during the Cold War and could be effective in countering Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, argue Vladislav Davidzon and Peter Dickinson in the World Affairs Journal.

“Until international audiences become better informed about the realities of modern Ukraine, they will remain vulnerable to further information attacks. The initial success of Russia’s hybrid war has shown how effective disinformation campaigns can be in shaping modern conflicts,” note the pair, who believe now is the time to “craft a comprehensive counterattack” to Russia’s disinformation campaign.

“Content is not the problem. Unlike the Kremlin, Ukraine has truth on its side. The real challenge is reaching as wide an audience as possible with attention grabbing content. This is where Ukraine must call on the support of its international partners,” they suggest.

Middle East, Africa Nations: EU Puts Stability Over Human Rights
The European Union has been widely criticized for its handling of the war in Syria and the subsequent refugee/migrant crisis which was born from the chaos that civil war created. For those living in the Middle East and North Africa, the approaches to the two events reflect a wider posture toward southern Europe that places a premium on stability over human rights.

Since January, the Carnegie Endowment for Europe has sought the input of authors of those living in the southern Mediterranean for their views of the EU. The most common assessment was that EU policy was confused and inconsistent.

“On the ground, the authors shared a common perception of the EU. Whether in Jordan or Palestine, Morocco or Algeria, they argued that the EU is too timid in promoting human rights and genuine political reforms,” writes Carnegie’s Judy Dempsey.

In most cases, the EU were timid or slow in reacting to the Arab Spring. The authors felt that when they did act it was based on preconceptions formed by the threat of terrorism “to such a degree that the union is prepared to defend stability and turn a blind eye to repression at the expense of the many who are struggling for human rights.”

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