SEEKING FOR TRUTH IN TURKEY

DR. SARPHAN UZUNO─×LU & VERDA UYAR

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Fact-checkers became one of the most popular actors in what some scholars label as the ÔÇťpost-truth era.ÔÇŁ In the past couple of years there have been a growing scholar interest that aimed to understand the proliferation of fact-checking organizations worldwide, mainly focusing on the historical and political processes that paved the way for its emergence. Turkey had been no exception to this trend, coming to the stage rather late but with its peculiarities. This report concentrates on this very geographical traits and dynamics present in TurkeyÔÇÖs fact-checking ecosystem. The aim of the study is to understand the scope of fact-checking activities, topics and methodology in Turkey while also pointing out to possible constraints that is being faced with. 

Growing distrust in the functioning of the mainstream media and governments have led fact-checking outlets aiming to combat misinformation and fake news to originate generally within civil society initiatives, with limited sources and capacities. Fact-checking, however, also captured the attention of the media and the governments alike; with more large media houses incorporating fact-checking units within their organizations and even some governments being involved, whether through means of regulation or directly establishing their own fact-checking platforms. While this is raising certain concerns and sparking further debates, it equally demonstrates that fact-checking is indeed a very complex effort, with various motivations,  methods, stakeholders and business models coexisting. A considerable ambiguity remains whether fact-checking is at the end of the day a journalistic practice or not, while it is still being disputed whether it is a sustainable and reliable venture. Hence it is significant to understand where fact-checking platforms locate themselves amongst all through addressing the perception of the professionals. 

Over the course of the study, we have conducted interviews with representatives from active fact-checking organizations in Turkey: Do─čruluk Pay─▒, Do─črulu─ču Ne?, Fact-Checking Turkey, G├╝n├╝n Yalanlar─▒, Malumatfuru┼č, Teyit, Yalansavar; and from International Fact Checking Network (IFCN). WeÔÇÖve also analyzed the last 100 content published by some of these platforms to identify the trends and topics that these fact-checkers have been following recently. Institutionalization of fact-checking, construction of trust between the platforms, approaches to supranational regulatory bodies like IFCN and to national authorities, emerging fact-checking practices and Covid-19 pandemicÔÇÖs impact were among our primary quests that motivated us to get going with this research. 

Here are some of our main findings: 

  • There is no consensus among fact-checking organizations in Turkey on whether fact-checking is a journalism practice or not. While some professionals define themselves as journalists, some view what they are doing as a completely discrete effort. 
  • As per the fact-checking organizations, it is not necessary to be a journalist in order to do fact-checking. Those employed or are volunteering in these platforms do not necessarily possess a journalism degree, but are rather coming from diverse educational backgrounds. 
  • Institutionalization and establishing partnerships with other platforms, although bringing about some risks, are viewed as vital for rendering fact-checking sustainable. 
  • Almost all of the representatives opined that the existing political atmosphere in Turkey is affecting the scope of their work. They assert that  they receive reactions from people of different political viewpoints for every analysis they share.  
  • Social media verifications covering popular topics seem to have outnumbered political fact-checking in Turkey. 
  • Most of the fact-checkers in Turkey have a positive attitude towards the presence of bodies like IFCN and becoming a signatory of its Code of Principles. Some raise concerns about applicability of organizational and editorial transparency principles within political environments at risk. 
  • Increasing interest in fact-checking disinformation on public health, and  Covid-19 pandemic in particular, is likely to remain. 
  • Fighting against disinformation on climate related issues is also expected to grow into a substantial topic in the coming years.