Turkish journalists working for Russia’s Sputnik labeled ‘state-controlled’ media by Twitter

Turkish journalists working for the Russian state-owned Sputnik news agency have received a label attached to their accounts that identifies them as “state-controlled media” by Twitter. 

On Tuesday, Bianet English reported that a number of Turkish journalists received the label as part of its worldwide effort to identify and label Russian media accounts in the wake of Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine. The goal of the operation is to help fight misinformation about the war with the view that Russian state outlets are active in spreading it. 

Elif Sudagezer, one of the Turkish journalists who received the label, called the move "dystopian" and an attack by "Western institutions". A Turkish left-wing association representing journalists also attacked the move as a “continuation of the already dirty war with even more dirtier means”. It called on Twitter to reverse the decision immediately. 

Free Web Turkey, a group that monitors online censorship, criticised the decision to label the accounts. It said that by doing so, it opened up the recipients to harassment online and overbroad in the way it has swept up even former employees of Sputnik Turkiye. 

"Twitter has tagged my profile because I have been an employee for nearly four years [of Sputnik Turkiye]," said Anil Tuncer, who said he left the agency eight months ago and is now employed by Diken News.

Western countries have responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine by moving to ban state-backed media outlets like Russia Today and Sputnik. For its part, Turkey has generally allowed these outlets to operate freely for years without the same levels of scrutiny they face in the United States or Europe. However, Ukrainian and Turkish protestors recently called for Ankara to ban the outlets for spreading propaganda about the war on Russia’s behalf.

In contrast, Turkey has taken a stronger line with reporting from Western state-funded outlets. Earlier this month, Turkey’s media watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), ordered several Western outlets to seek a license to continue broadcasting or be banned from doing so. 

The outlets at risk include Euronews, Voice of America and Deutsche Welle, prompting criticism from the U.S State Department that urged Ankara to respect the free press. 


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