BBG Watch Media Commentary

RT Twitter Logo VOA LOGOAfter the downing of the Russian fighter jet by the Turkish military in November 2015, Turkey became suddenly the target of a new information war waged by RT, SPUTNIK, and other Kremlin controlled media outlets. As pointed out in an Index on Censorship article, “on the eve of G20 summit, Vladimir Putin was praising the ‘independent position’ of Russia’s ‘partner’ Turkey. Ten days later, the rhetoric had changed dramatically.”

“All media platforms, directly or indirectly controlled by the state, were used in the construction of an image of a new enemy,” Ekaterina Buchneva, a journalist at Reuters TV, wrote in her Index on Censorship article published last December. “After weeks under information attack, on 3 December, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu dismissed the allegations by Russian media that Turkey was buying oil from Islamic State as ‘lies of this Soviet-style propaganda machine‘.”

Russia continues to accuse Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his family of benefiting from the illegal smuggling of oil, an allegation also rejected as propaganda by the Turkish Prime Minister.

“In the Cold War period, there was a Soviet propaganda machine. Every day it created different lies. Firstly, they would believe them and then expect the world to believe them. These were remembered as Pravda lies and nonsense,” Ahmet Davutoglu said.

The latest theme in the Kremlin’s propaganda offensive against Turkey is the alleged massive mistreatment of more than 2 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

Illegal Oil Trade and Mistreatment of Refugees

There may be a curious convergence between at least some Voice of America and Russia’s RT news reports on Turkey, both in December 2015 when the RT launched in earnest its accusations against Turkey over alleged illegal oil trade with ISIS, and in March 2016 when RT started to blast Turkey over alleged mistreatment of refugees. Our online search showed that the number of news reports in which actions of the Turkish government are presented in an unfavorable light has increased recently not only on RT, but also on the Voice of America English news website.

An RT headline from March 18, 2016 says in part: “EU outsourcing human rights obligations to brutal Turkish regime.” A VOA headline from March 21, 2016 says: “Refugees: Turkish Coast Guard Becoming More Violent.”

An RT headline from December 2, 2015 says: “Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade.” A VOA headline from December 4, 2015 says in part: “Western Powers Reportedly Buying IS Oil.”


Are VOA reports on Turkey more accurate, more balanced and more comprehensive than RT reports?

Is there any propaganda behind the headlines?

Are VOA and RT reports different in tone and substance? How do they compare with DW and BBC reports?

In our view, BBC is far ahead in terms of journalistic excellence, objectivity, balance, tone, language and presentation. We think DW comes next. Both BBC and to some degree DW sought responses from the Turkish government. Their reporters attempted to show any problems in the broader context of Turkey as a country which had allowed more than two million war refugees to come within its borders and is trying to cope with hosting them under difficult circumstances.

RT and VOA reports seem to us different by comparison.

Question: is there any convergence between RT and VOA on Turkey?

Question: Whose reports are most objective, balanced, and comprehensive?

Question: Whose reports are most one-sided?

Compare and decide.

March 2016

VOA: Refugees: Turkish Coast Guard Becoming More Violent, March 21, 2015

RT: ‘Don’t trade refugees!’ EU outsourcing human rights obligations to brutal Turkish regime – NGOs, March 18, 2016

RT: Turkish border guards shooting Syrian refugees ‘daily’ – Amnesty Intl, March 8, 2016

December 2015

VOA: December 4, 2015: Western Powers Reportedly Buying IS Oil, While Bombing Oil Facilities

VOA: Moscow’s Allegations Against Ankara Ratchet Up Tensions, December 1, 2015

RT: ‘No way West was unaware of ISIS-Turkey oil trade’, December 2, 2015

RT: Russia presents proof of Turkey’s role in ISIS oil trade, December 2, 2015

Compare With DW and BBC

DW: Refugees in Greek limbo fear return to Turkey, March 16, 2016

DW: Amnesty: Turkey deports refugees to warzones, December 16, 2015

BBC: Refugee crisis ‘impossible to handle’ in Turkey, February 18, 2016

BBC: Turkey ‘acting illegally’ over Syria refugees deportations, January 15, 2016