Montage wars over leaked voice recordings incriminating PM and son of corruption

Montage wars over leaked voice recordings incriminating PM and son of corruption

Montage wars over leaked voice recordings incriminating PM and son of corruption

Hürriyet Photo

An ongoing debate over whether the recent leaked phone conversations between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his son are authentic is dominating Turkish politics, with both the government and the opposition striking each other over the corruption claims.

A number of “experts” have been quoted by Turkish media since the tapes were disclosed Feb. 24, with many claiming that they seem authentic and others claiming that the recordings were edited.

Pro-government private broadcaster Kanal 7 said analyses of the recordings by U.S.-based audio studios, reportedly commissioned by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), “proved” that they had been edited.

Kanal 7 claimed that two firms contacted by the channel on Feb. 26 had sent separate reports, with one arguing the recordings did not have “a similar sounding noise floor,” indicating that they could have been altered.

However, both firms subsequently released official statements. One denied that it had conducted any analysis of the tapes, while the other stated that its analysis of the noise floor did not mean the recordings were a montage.

‘Not an audio forensic specialist’

The CEO of John Marshall Media, the first firm referred to by Kanal 7, stated that the latter had tried to dupe its audience by using its business card in a picture together with a report that was written using another company’s name. “The fact that the companies in the signature and on the business card stapled to the top are different makes this an obvious attempt at deception. This recording was not analyzed by JMM and JMM is not a forensic audio specialist,” said the company’s statement.

“To the news agencies that reprinted this obvious forgery: Shame on you,” it added.

A second firm that analyzed the recordings, Kaleidoscope Sound, also stressed the company specialized in mixing music and not in audio forensics.

“We were asked if it had been edited, or was a continuous recording. In our professional opinion, it is not a continuous recording. To make any determinations beyond this would certainly require at least a native speaker,” the company said in a statement, adding they did not have knowledge about whose conversations the recordings were.

“Please do not construe this to be an indication of innocence or guilt on anyone’s part; it is simply an answer to the question asked,” it added.

Cheap or sophisticated?

A senior official from public broadcaster TRT also claimed the recordings were a “cheap montage,” following his own analysis. “There are quotes from conversations made by Prime Minister Erdoğan in the past. They have tried to add the quotes with a montage. But [their own] voices were forgotten underneath. This is a cheap montage,” TRT coordinator Kürşat Özkök said.

On the contrary, seemingly more reliable experts quoted by the media said the recordings could be authentic, unless they were the result of a “very sophisticated” montage. Joshua Marpet, the managing principal of the cyber analytics firm Guarded Risk, told McClatchy media that the audio levels in the calls were consistent and there was no sign that individual conversations had been edited.

“If it’s fake, it’s of a sophistication that I haven’t seen,” Marpet was quoted as saying.

He noted Erdoğan’s voice sounded more mechanical, while Bilal sounded clearer throughout the recording, which he said could have been related with the phones.

“It was possible that Erdoğan’s phone was being intercepted electronically, while Bilal’s phone might have had a listening device planted in the receiver,” according to Marpet.

Erdoğan has repeatedly called the voice recordings a “montage,” accusing the movement of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen over the leaks. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) officials, however, said they believed the recordings were authentic after an extraordinary meeting held only a few hours after the disclosure of the tapes Feb. 27.

Sound technicians reportedly analyzed the tapes during the CHP’s meeting, after which the party called for the government to resign. The leaks also triggered sporadic protests across the country.