Turkish-Arab Media Forum

Turkish-Arab Media Forum

The first Turkish-Arab Media Forum took place the last two days in Istanbul with participation of nearly 200 journalists from 22 countries. It was organized by Turkey’s official Press and Information Directorate.

Let us confess that the greatest interest of the Turkish and Arab media was with stars of the Turkish TV series (who have millions of fans in the Arab world and not only there but in the Balkans and Central Asia as well) and not in the analytical panels debating how to be in closer cooperation.

Yet, the panels were informative and fruitful. It was interesting to listen to experienced colleagues from the Arab countries on the impact of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s speech on democracy, secularism and Islam on Arab politics in the current phase of the Arab Spring.

One of the issues much debated was the ability to access news events, not through channels of the Western media agencies, but through direct correspondence of the region’s journalists. (We learned that Turkey’s semi-official Anatolia news agency is planning to start an Arabic service with a base in Cairo.)

That of course brings the issues of the environment of news gathering, quality of reporting and press freedom, which all participant countries, including the host, have differing amounts of way to go.
But the forum was a start – a good start. It was another indication of the changing political atmosphere of the Arab world and changing nature of Turkey’s relations with Arab countries.


[HH] No apparent Syrian link

Libyan citizen Samir Almadhavri was shot dead after an hour of clashing with the Turkish police Nov. 30 as he opened fire in front of the main gate of the Topkapı Palace Museum in Istanbul, where Ottoman sultans used to rule the empire until 1923.

The first official reports said he was driving a car with Syria plates and had entered Turkey on Nov. 27. It was interesting that Nov. 27 was the date Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had accused Turkish government of dreams to revive Ottoman times, when Turkey supported in principle the Arab League sanctions on Syria the same day. And Nov. 30 was the day the Turkish government declared its own sanctions on its neighbor, Syria.

Giving this picture, I had to caution the reader not to draw any conclusions on a possible Syria link and wait for the investigation.

The joint investigation by Istanbul police and Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) started to bear some results. According to them the gunman did not enter from Syria; he flew from Benghazi with a Turkish Airlines plane. He settled in a hotel near Taksim, bought two hunting rifles from two different shops and carried them in a sports bag to the palace in a taxi. The Syrian car actually belonged to a tourist with no relations to the incident.

This is another example showing that officials should refrain from giving statements on terrorist attacks before obtaining reliable information, especially if it may lead to escalation of political tension.