Journalists condemn Kılıçdaroğlu’s request to fabricate news stories
Journalists condemned a request from Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu to Ergenekon suspect and journalist Nedim Şener to fabricate news stories and pointed out that there is no excuse for such an action, while speaking to Today’s Zaman on Thursday.
According to Sabah columnist Sevilay Yükselir, it is normal for a journalist to have a relationship with a politician, but a request to fabricate stories is unacceptable.
“It is unacceptable for a politician to demand and decide what points should be highlighted [in a news article],” Yükselir said and added: “The most problematic element here is the willingness of the journalist to be steered in a certain way by a politician. It’s not unusual for a journalist to have quite a variety of sources, including the leaders of political parties. But what’s important here is that a journalist shouldn’t attempt to fabricate news stories upon the request of a politician.”
Şener was imprisoned six months ago as part of the ongoing Odatv trial, a news website whose operators were accused of aiding and abetting the Ergenekon terrorist organization. The conversations took place in July and August 2009, nearly four months after Kılıçdaroğlu lost the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality mayoral elections. The recorded calls reveal that Kılıçdaroğlu encouraged Şener to write negative news stories about the municipality’s İstanbul Transportation Authority (İETT) and asked him to report on an incident in the district of Eyüp in which an unmarried couple was warned for sitting together at an Eyüp restaurant.
Kılıçdaroğlu asked Şener to send a male and female reporter to the same restaurant in Eyüp in order to see if they would provoke a reaction by sitting next to each other. Upon hearing Kılıçdaroğlu’s request, Şener asked if he had the names of the couple in question. Kılıçdaroğlu responded in the affirmative, and the conversation ended after Şener said he would “deal with it.”
According to Mehmet Altan, chief columnist of the Star daily, the request to fabricate news stories was not ethical in any sense of the word. Altan stated that it is not normal for the leader of a political party to hold a meeting with a journalist privately to talk about these kinds of things. He said, “It’s definitely absurd for the CHP to engage in these kinds of activities.”
Deniz Ergürel, secretary-general of the Media Association, which concerns itself with professionalism and ethics in the media, warned journalists not to let personal relationships get in the way of ensuring professionalism in the field of journalism.
“A journalist, irrespective of his ideological and political background, mustn’t distort reality by misusing information he has,” Ergürel said.
Taraf columnist Markar Esayan said the request to fabricate news stories indicates a politician was desperately seeking ways outside of the political arena to weaken his rival in politics. “This picture is a source of shame for the journalist. There is no way to approve of what he did,” Esayan said. Star columnist Sibel Eraslan also criticized the role of the alleged journalist by indicating that in determining the way to deal with a story and building on specified parameters, a journalist can take orders from the editorial staff of the newspaper in which he works but can never fabricate a story based on the request of a politician.
In response to news report regarding his request to Şener, the CHP leader said the conversations between him and the journalist were “normal.” Speaking to reporters at Ankara Esenboğa Airport on Tuesday, he said the conversations represent a dialogue between a deputy who is struggling against corruption and a journalist pursuing stories about corruption. “It is in fact the duty of a journalist,” he said. In response to a reporter’s question over Kılıçdaroğlu’s request to send a male and a female reporter to see the reaction of the people in Eyüp, he said people must focus on the incident, not on the conversation.