By U AC
Q: What’s WAPC all about?
We were established because there were a lot of problems with journalists and media members. So we talked and came together to support each other in order to create more opportunities for press freedom and of course, responsible journalism. We are not only one-sided but also thinking about the public and the fact that they have to have the correct news. We think that it is important that all participants in the media industry should be respectful to each other. That’s how and why we were established.
When it was established, there were twelve member countries. Now we have twenty-six and it is becoming more powerful and we can achieve more because our members are really unified in pushing for press freedom and responsible international journalism. It has been quite an achievement for the council and also for our members.
Q: How has it changed over the years?
It changed a little bit. Yes, we have the same ideals, such as press freedom and responsible journalism. Also, in the media sector, there are new things happening with the new technology, social media and internet journalism. All of that pose a lot of challenges to the council and when our members come together last year in Kenya, we decided that we have to develop a code of ethics for social media as well. Because social media has become an instrument to defame certain people for political purposes, which we think is not fair. We believe we should have a code of ethics for social media as we have in journalism.
Q: We would protect the journalists and reporters, at the same time, how about fake news agencies that farm out falsehoods and reporters who write these?
Thank you for asking me that. It has been one of the major challenges for WAPC. Unfortunately, there are some participants in the media, who sometimes write or make fake news and it may not be very easy to correct these fake stories. And it is worse if nobody complains or points out these fake news items. It would stay on the digital media forever. Even in the US, very eminent people are complaining about fake news. Of course, we are against it. We feel that journalists, and media workers, should have a responsibility to the general public. We are addressing these too and we should be writing just and unbiased news. If the journalist takes the opinion from one side, they should express the opinion from the opposite side too, to have unbiased news.
We are very sensitive about those things, but how much we can extend ourselves is limited and sometimes, we cannot really reach certain places all around the world.
Q: How does Türkiye/Cyprus handle fake news?
This is a problem because sometimes, it may not come to us. Because there was so much social media fake news stories are everywhere. Most of the postings there are fake stories. We are very frustrated because we cannot do anything about it. First, one has to follow every single digital media outlet or news posting. It is impossible, especially for a non-governmental organization like ours. The second thing is even if you find the source of the fake news, the process took so long and people forgot about it. You found and tracked the fake news down. And if you make an announcement one or two months later that counter the fake news with the correct chain of events, people really forget about what was the news, in the first place. So, it should be framed in such a way that the response is very fast. Then the people would have sufficient memory to replace the fake news with the correct version.
These are great challenges faced not only by WAPC but also many countries all over the world, that still do not know how to deal with fake news. Many countries still have no punishment or penalties for fake news spread over social media. Based on the resolution of our last meeting in Kenya, we decided the same code of ethics for traditional media should be applied to digital social media. Also for punishment and penalties.
Q: What is the solution to tackle fake news, especially in developing countries, with a semi-educated population?
In such a case, the better idea could be having an office, a special office, following news and assessing the correctness of these. People then have a channel to report and fake news could be stopped before they harm the general public. That office could follow the general media as well as the social media. If there is any fake news harmful to society or the public, it should be cleaned before it spreads. That office should be handled by the government, especially in these countries. There should be penalties and punishments for harming society too.
Q: How do you handle pressures from US and Russia, with Türkiye being part of NATO and a neighbour of Russia at the same time?
I totally understand what you are saying about Myanmar being caught between the giants and being part of geopolitical gameplay. Türkiye is also between giants like European Union and Russia with a lot of power play from the US too. That type of position requires extremely delicate handling because you do not want to be fighting or going against any of the giants. I am sure Myanmar people are very intelligent and they can develop the best strategies for themselves. I know it’s a very difficult position to be in. I hope all the best for you.
Q: Obviously Turkish PM continues to accuse Myanmar of illegal Bengali immigrants genocide, yet, it is not true. What would be the best way to resolve that?
Under this type of situation, there may be fake news, complaints, disputes, propaganda, etc. The best thing is to communicate. Communicate with each other. If we do not understand each other, we cannot ever reach a resolution. So the first step should be to try to understand each other much better and try to solve the problem by coming together. I think this would be the best idea hurting nobody and protecting all sides’ interests at the same time. I always prefer that strategy.
Q: How powerful is the press council in Türkiye? How is it dealing with the shrinkage of traditional media and the expansion of digital media?
We are somewhat powerful because there is freedom of the press here and also responsible journalism. If there is any deviation from responsible journalism, we make a point to address the situation and take control of it. So we do have press freedom and responsible journalism in all aspects of our country’s media, except for social media. Social media is totally out of control, unfortunately. It is sometimes really harmful to the people.
Q: How does the majority of the Turkish population view US and Russia?
That again, is the strategic position Türkiye has to take delicately. There is definitely anti-US sentiment because Turkish people think that sometimes US interests and Turkish interests can be conflicting, in certain areas. Hence, they react. But we also know that Türkiye is a NATO ally militarily and the country is following a market economy system. So economically and militarily, we are somewhat allied with the West.