Voice of America English website posts a one-sided report on Turkey


BBG Watch Commentary

VOA English website screen shot.

VOA English website screen shot.

The U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) English news website has posted Sunday a one-sided and incomplete report on the protests in Turkey and the Turkish government’s violent response to these protests.
The VOA English report failed to note that pro-government rallies of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s supporters are carefully staged with party loyalist being bussed to a gathering point while peaceful anti-government protesters face tear gas and water cannons. The report possibly also overestimated the number of pro-government rally participants and had very little information about much larger spontaneous anti-government demonstrations, their violent suppression by the police, and the specific issues behind the protests.
This kind of superficial reporting angers pro-democracy protesters and damages U.S. public diplomacy. Turkish protesters are already angry with the local mainstream Turkish media for practicing self-censorship.
It appears that VOA English service has no reporter on the ground in Turkey.
The Voice of America English Central Newsroom has been drastically scaled down in recent years by officials of the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) who have been expanding the bureaucracy and technologies at the expense of programs and journalistic positions. IBB managers have been repeatedly rated in the official Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Federal Employee Viewpoint Surveys as being some of the worst in the federal government.

Vandalized TV van on Taksim Square with an anti-NTV sign.

The Voice of America Turkish service is believed to be doing a much better job of reporting from Turkey. Its staffers have been working long hours, but they also have been deprived of adequate resources by IBB managers who have tried to shut down and down size the service numerous times.
In their FY 2013 budget proposal to Congress, IBB officials had asked for eliminating four journalistic positions in the VOA Turkish Service. Members of Congress from both parties rejected this proposal and other IBB attempts to eliminate or reduce broadcasts. But most VOA services as well as services of other BBG-managed broadcasters, including Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are woefully underfunded, while IBB consumes the largest part of the BBG budget (about 35%). In the FY 2014 budget proposal to Congress, IBB wants to eliminate even more VOA English Central Newsroom positions.
The controversial report posted Sunday on the Voice of America English website is re-posted below:

Erdogan Says It Was His ‘Duty’ to Evict Protesters

VOA News

June 16, 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told hundreds of thousands of supporters it was his “duty” to evict activists from an Istanbul park.
Speaking at a rally Sunday, Erdogan said two weeks of street protests were manipulated by “terrorists.” He dismissed opposition allegations that he was behaving like a dictator and he criticized foreign media coverage of the protests.
​As he spoke, riot police in central Istanbul fired tear gas to stop protesters from regrouping in the main Taksim Square, after police forcibly drove them out of a nearby park that has been the center of protests against Erdogan’s government.
The prime minister said his patience with the demonstrators had ended. Security forces used tear gas and water cannons to clear the park on Saturday evening.
Protests against government plans to tear down the park for new construction started two weeks ago but quickly built into nationwide protests against Erdogan. The protesters accuse him of imposing his conservative Islamic views on the country.
The prime minister told protesters last week that he would put redevelopment plans for the park on hold until a court rules on them. He also said he would hold a referendum on the issue if the court rules in the government’s favor.
The following comment was left under the report:
by: deniz
June 16, 2013 3:09 PM
Huge, how many? I have counted approximately 30 thousand from the aerial pictures (I am a PHD Statistician). There were more than 1 million demonstrating against him at the same time. Are you sure you aren’t a biased journalist.
Image posted on Facebook page of Turkish actor and director Mujdat Gezen.

Image posted on Facebook page of Turkish actor and director Mujdat Gezen accusing mainstream Turkish media of self-censorship, including local partners of MSNBC and CNN.

Complaints about the VOA English website coverage of Turkey have been submitted to VOA Director David Ensor as well as members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) who have the ultimate responsibility over the broadcaster and IBB managers. BBG members, however, have encountered strong resistance from IBB management to their attempts to improve programming to countries with limited free media. IBB’s current director is Richard Lobo. He was appointed by President Obama and fully supports his discredited managers.
Russia Today reporter on Taksim Square in Istanbul

Russia Today reporter on Taksim Square in Istanbul

Al Jazeera  and Russia Today have provided far more extensive coverage of the Turkish protests than the Voice of America.
An appeal posted on Facebook by pro-democracy protesters in Turkey complained about local media censorship and called on international media to pay more attention to the suppression of demonstrations in Turkey.
Local Turkish media, with business links with the government and international media outlets such as MSNBC and CNN, were slow in reporting on the protests, drawing anger from the demonstrators.
A statement from the Turkish protest group Demokrasi also points out that international media, especially in the U.S., is not paying enough attention to the protests.

URGENT–DEAR FRIENDS, PLEASE SHARE! Citizens of the world, the law-abiding, peaceful & democratic people of Turkey are crying out via social media for help against the current (right now!) brutal attack from police & lies from govt officials. Local media is not telling the truth & int’l media is by & large silent, esp. in the USA. Ordinary people, including women & children, are being hit with tear gas & water cannons … massive injuries, & police hindering rescue & care. Doctors & lawyers helping them are being arrested! All legal channels for advocacy within Turkey are closed! Bravely they are still standing & marching tonight. Please stand up with them for freedom & share! Contact your leaders & media outlets! YOU can make a difference! | Demokrasi.Org