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Disinformation on social media threatens democracy: Turkish president

Photo illustration of social media apps displayed on a smart phone screen in Ankara, Turkey on 30 September 2021 [Ali Balıkçı/Anadolu Agency]
Photo illustration of social media apps displayed on a smart phone screen in Ankara, Turkey on 30 September 2021 [Ali Balıkçı/Anadolu Agency]

The social media platforms with no inspection executed now threaten the democracy, social peace and national security of states, the Turkish president said on Friday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

"Just as we do not entirely rely on foreigners in defence industry and military matters, we cannot leave the communication issue to others," Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a video message to the Turkic Council Media Forum held in Istanbul.

Erdogan expressed hope for the three-day media forum, hosted by Turkey's Directorate of Communications, to be instrumental in strengthening the solidarity among countries.

"We cannot trust the conscience and professional ethics of those who constantly teach us human rights, democracy and freedom lessons from an orientalist perspective," he said.

He stated that millions of "defenceless" people around the world are depressed and suffering serious trauma due to false and distorted news.

"Like other strategic issues, we have to take matters regarding media and communication into our own hands," Erdogan said.

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He urged the Turkic world and relevant countries to take initiative in this regard, share experience, join forces and seek ways to make the most effective use of the opportunities.

The Turkish leader also pointed out that no country or society —whether it is developed or not—is free from the "devastating effect of digital fascism."

Cooperation opportunities in media, TV series and film sectors in the Turkic world, as well as social media and the joint struggle against disinformation are among the topics that will be discussed during the forum.

The Turkic Council was established in 2009 as an intergovernmental organization with an overarching aim of promoting comprehensive cooperation among Turkic-speaking states. It consists of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey and Uzbekistan as member countries and Hungary as an observer state.

Karabakh war

Besides "digital fascism," Erdogan said, the Turkic world also suffers from the double standards of the international media.

"Especially the hypocritical attitude we witnessed during the (second) Karabakh war, which lasted for 44 days, revealed the importance of the issue for our countries," he said.

"The massacre and ballistic missile attacks of the Armenian army targeting civilians (in Azerbaijan) were never brought up in that period. Talking about media independence and objectivity, international media outlets acted as the official news agency of Armenia," he criticized.

*Erdogan also highlighted that the second Karabakh war is "neither the first nor the last example of a press embargo" against the facts about the countries of the Turkic world.

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Relations between the former Soviet republics of Azerbaijan and Armenia have been tense since 1991, when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Upper Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan and seven adjacent regions.

When new clashes erupted on 27 September, 2020, the Armenian army launched attacks on civilians and Azerbaijani forces, and violated several humanitarian cease-fire agreements.

During the 44-day conflict, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages from the nearly three-decade occupation.

On  10 November last year, the two countries signed a Russian-brokered agreement to end the fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.

On 11 January, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a pact to develop economic ties and infrastructure to benefit the entire region. It included the establishment of a trilateral working group on Karabakh.

The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces withdrew in line with the agreement.

Prior to this victory, about 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory had been under illegal occupation for nearly 30 years.

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