Director of Communications Altun: “Disinformation is a national security issue”

Director of Communications Altun: “Disinformation is a national security issue”

A Digital World Workshop is being organized by the Association of Anatolian Publishers, with the support of the Presidency's Directorate of Communications.

The workshop's opening speech, carried out at the working office at the Dolmabahçe Palace, was delivered by the Presidency's Director of Communications, Prof. Fahrettin Altun.

At the beginning of his speech, Altun wished Allah's mercy upon the soldiers who were martyred as a result of the crash of the helicopter taking off from Bingöl to Tatvan the day before, and conveyed the greetings and wishes of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to the participants to have a successful workshop.

Stressing that digitalization has turned into an undeniable reality, Altun pointed out that rapid and irreversible changes have taken place in all spheres, from journalism to publishing and from the business world to private life.

"Investments made to the communications infrastructure in Türkiye played a key role"

Indicating that Türkiye has felt this transformation very strongly with its young and dynamic population, Fahrettin Altun said, "Our youth spend at least 3 hours on the internet every day with their computers or mobile devices. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, our youth and children followed their lessons from the internet last year.  Education still continues from the internet to a considerable extent."

Pointing out that the investments made to the communication infrastructure under the leadership of President Erdoğan have played a key role in reaching the current progress of Türkiye, Altun said, "As a matter of fact, we witness the interest shown to the companies operating in our country by global giants all together."

"The impact of digitalization is mostly felt in the media"

Stating that challenges should be taken into consideration as well as the opportunities in dealing with digitalization, Altun expressed that unfavourable impacts are mostly felt by members of the traditional media.

Altun stated that social media and new sites negatively affected the newspapers, digital publishers negatively affected the television, and music services negatively affected the radio.

In addition, indicating that the coronavirus pandemic, which has been going on for almost a year, has reduced in particular the advertising revenue and deepened the problems of the traditional media, Altun stated, "This situation is experienced not only in Türkiye but across the world. As a matter of fact, a considerable number of large and small institutions had to terminate their activities after long years due to the global pandemic conditions. Giant media outlets such as the New York Times and The Guardian terminated the employment of many employees. Similar circumstances are experienced in Europe too."

Expressing that another negative impact of digitalization on media was downgrading the journalism to click numbers and reading times, and thus leaving behind the public welfare with sensational contents, Altun said, "Leaving behind the public welfare with sensational contents turned into an element which weakens the critical role of media played in democratic regimes. Is there anyone who recalls five Ws and one H in the media today? Speed, clicks, tabloids, circulation, rating… We speak about a media ecosystem centred on those elements in which authentic news and public welfare are kept in the background. We, as the Directorate of Communications, exert utmost efforts to solve this problem today in Türkiye and maintain our cooperation with the media sector."

"We should set out the professional standards of internet journalism"

Mentioning the journalism activities carried out over the internet, Altun noted the following:

"While the information is rapidly moved from physical to digital media across the world and in Türkiye, we think that the rules regulating those activities should be evaluated comprehensively once again. We cannot turn a blind eye to this reality while the internet becomes a part of mainstream media. Therefore, it is an important requirement to bring our legislation and working methods in compliance with the circumstances of the time.

Undoubtedly, we need to take into consideration a delicate balance here. It is essential to distinguish between people who open up a website and publish with their own means and professional journalists. This distinction is primarily required to preserve the universal standards of the profession of journalism and to protect journalists. On the other hand, it cannot be accepted that those practising journalism are mistreated because they solely work through a specific platform. We should set out the professional standards of internet journalism together and regulate this area rationally and transparently. Taking these steps will contribute to the elimination of some threats we face."

"Digital fascism, huge threat"

Presidency's Director of Communications Fahrettin Altun stated that one of the biggest threats faced today was digital fascism.

Expressing that handful of companies clustered in a specific area of the world claim that they hold the 'truth monopoly', Altun said, "This claim is coupled with an insolence that goes so far as to apply censorship to the elected representatives of the nation beyond question. They make every possible effort to legitimize this sort of anti-democratic practices and carry out all sorts of manipulation. Thus, a group of private companies assume the roles of lawyer, prosecutor and judge concerning the access to the information by the public. It is apparent how problematic the course of events is."

Indicating that another aspect of digital fascism was degenerating and politicizing the concepts such as freedom of expression and tolerance, Altun commented, "I would like to underline it clearly. Double standard evidently speaks for itself. Look, what are global companies doing? On the one hand, they silence the politicians on the grounds that they 'spark violence'.  On the other hand, the same global companies continue to be a part of terrorist propaganda and carry it out with full intent. As a matter of fact, the PKK's ringleaders are in the terrorist list of the USA and EU or FETO, who slaughtered 251 innocent people on July 15 continue to carry out propaganda freely on social media platforms. In addition, when our country requested the accounts affiliated with the terrorist organizations to be removed, it is accused of authoritativeness and not respecting the freedom of expression."

"Both FETO and PKK are among the most treacherous terrorist organizations"

Stating that, "Hypocritical approach of certain states of the world and some private companies turning into global powers towards terrorist organizations is one of the biggest threats faced by the current democratic regime", Altun noted, "The 'enormous tolerance' shown to the murderous organizations abhorrently killing the innocent people, unfortunately, stands among the problems that hurt the most. Because terrorist organizations constitute a threat not only for the regions they target but also for the entire world."

Indicating that the PKK terrorist organization, which has been engaged in cowardly attacks against Türkiye for decades, unblinkingly killed tens of thousands of peoples, Altun said, "These killer gangs staged terrorist attacks not only in Türkiye but in several countries, especially in Syria, they mainly targeted innocent people and took the loved ones from us. Despite this fact, it is clearly complicity to sympathize and provide support to the bloody terrorist organization. Likewise, those who protect FETO and its terrorist ringleader should realize that they are also involved in a major crime."

"Injustice against Türkiye will fall as a critical note in history"

Emphasizing that FETO, like the PKK, was one of the most treacherous terrorist organizations of the age, Altun stated the following:

"They moved forward in many areas sneakily and got involved in all kinds of murders and betrayals for the sake of their own organization. When the play they had set up collapsed with our President's determined stance, they attempted a coup as a last resort. But that rotten rope they were holding wrapped around their necks and feet with the heroic resistance of our nation. Even though the back of this evil structure is broken in our country, they have not given up the operations against Türkiye and efforts to poison the society in the countries they fled. No matter what they do, we will follow them until the root of the terrorist organization FETO, which is an enemy of our nation, is eradicated and the last FETO member is called to account in front of justice for his crimes, and we will continue our struggle with determination."

Fahrettin Altun stated that those who saw a putschist, murderer, and insidious terrorist organization like FETO as a useful apparatus would realize that they were doing the worst thing to their society sooner or later.

Stressing that the hypocritical and distorted understanding which has hopes from the terrorist organization could not resolve any of the problems of the humanity, Altun added, "Injustice against Türkiye which is in a relentless fight against all terrorist organizations, will, of course, be recorded as a critical note in history. The legitimate, the right, the truth will eventually prevail. Türkiye will undoubtedly have the honourable place in history under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the bearer of this struggle for the truth."

"Protecting our citizens from all kinds of extremism is the primary duty of the state"

Indicating that another dimension of digital fascism was the effort of a handful of companies to position themselves above the law under the pretext of freedom, Altun continued as follows:

"As you know, since we are trying to make arrangements on this issue for the Republic of Türkiye, we are faced with extraordinary pressure at home and abroad. Our extremely reasonable demands were announced as an attack against the freedom of expression. Obviously, some opposition representatives worked overtime during this process as if they were the salaried spokespersons of these global companies. During this process, we stood firm, with the awareness that we did the right thing for both Türkiye and the world. We endured all kinds of pressure. We said that there could be no such thing as unlimited freedom anywhere in the world, and we wanted our sovereignty to be respected. As a result, we have seen all together that the relevant companies accepted our legitimate demands.

Similarly, we strongly oppose our families and children to be targeted in this way through the corruption of concepts such as freedom and tolerance for homosexuality propaganda. Protecting our citizens from all kinds of extremism is the primary duty of the state. Presenting such ugliness as something 'normal', especially to young people, is an attack against our social order and our nation's noble character. Making the slightest concession to appear amicable to some people on this issue today will result in much more severe problems in the future. We do not and will not allow this."

"We shouldn't let digitalization absorb our culture"

Altun stated that the systematic manipulation of public opinion and the attempt to put perceptions in front of the facts was, above all, the enemy of democratic political culture and political participation.

Noting that, "We must defend the truth, facts and right against these initiatives," Altun said, "We have to protect the complex entirety, in other words, the culture, our culture, which includes the knowledge, belief, art, morality, laws, traditions and other abilities and habits that people acquire as a member of society. We should support digitalization, however not let digitalization absorb our culture. The mediatization of culture and the digitalization of the media can negatively affect not only the current political atmosphere but also cultural richness and diversity."

"Disinformation is a national security problem"

Expressing that the flow of fake news originating from inside and outside the country also threatened to poison citizens' relations with the state and eroded their trust in the institutions, Altun added the following:

"We experience this every day. During this period, which is called the post-truth, especially those with low disinformation resistance, can be easily influenced. Therefore, we regard disinformation, especially from abroad, as a 'national security problem', and we are trying to take the necessary measures against this. We are very determined on this issue as well. As the Directorate of Communications, we adopt an aggressive and proactive approach rather than a defensive and passive approach concerning this issue. We aim for all our institutions and organizations to fight against disinformation in cooperation and coordination. We arbitrate this goal with national and international plans and projects. Under the leadership of our President, our country will be at the forefront of the struggle for truth in the field of communication, just as it has become the voice of the silent and the protector of the oppressed."

“Türkiye's data should remain in Türkiye”

Underlining that data security was an extremely vital element at this point, Fahrettin Altun said, "We have to take all the necessary precautions and steps in order to enable Türkiye's data to remain in Türkiye."

Noting that within this respect, the process that took place after the decision of a communication application in recent weeks was pleasing, Altun said, "In this process, both our Presidency and other institutions supported this movement by bringing media information groups to our domestic and national practice BiP. Since our application is preferred by not only people from Türkiye but also millions of people from many countries where Türkiye's friends live, this is no doubt a proud-inspiring occasion. I hope this process will continue strongly."

"New communication technologies are important for Türkiye's promotion"

Pointing out that while fighting against the threats, the opportunities presented to Türkiye by digitalization could not be ignored, Altun added, "We have to accurately inform the national and international public about the issues that particularly concern our national security and defend the rightful thesis of our country in any atmosphere. In order to achieve this goal, we have to use all the tools at our disposal in the best possible way. In this regard, I believe that new communication technologies will especially make significant contributions to Türkiye's promotion."

In the opening part of the workshop, the Anatolian Publishers Association chief, Sinan Burhan and the President of the Supreme Board of Radio and Television Ebubekir Şahin delivered a speech.

In the first session titled "New Communication Technologies – Contribution of Local and National Media to the Promotion of a Country" and moderated by the Deputy Director Çağatay Özdemir (PhD), Head of Media Association Ekrem Kızıltaş, Chief Editor of Star TV Nazlı Çelik, Habertürk TV Prime-time Newscaster Veyis Ateş, Faculty Member of Maltepe University Prof. Dr. Asaf Varol and Chief Editor of Kontv Taşar Toy made evaluations on the contribution of local and national media to the promotion of a country.

In the first afternoon session of the workshop moderated by Presidency of Radio and Television Higher Council (RTUK) Vice President İbrahim Uslu, the topic “New Communication Technologies- New Types of Publishing and Contributions to the Promotion of Turkey" was discussed.

In the last session titled “Global Information Networks - Data Security and Communication”, sector representatives made evaluations on data security under the moderation of Personal Data Protection Authority President Prof Dr Faruk Bilir.