Journalist/Political Blogging from, and about, Turkey. Censorship issues?
January 1, 2009 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I'm re-locating to Turkey in the upcoming months (due to unrelated circumstances), and whilst there, I intend on starting, and keeping, a regular blog about current events, human rights issues, the EU bid, and such. Photojournalism, where appropriate - and available - will also be included. So, I suppose I have a few questions. (long post, my apologies!)

Due to current restrictions on freedom of the press, freedom of speech, Article 301, and others, any attempts at accurate journalism will either be censored, or may result in a less than friendly introduction to the Turkish legal system. However, human rights violations can't simply be ignored. The more they're spoken about, the more they're seen, the more can be done.

So, on to my questions:

1} What level of anonymity, if any, should I attempt? Should I go by a pseudonym? Or just leave out undue personal details and contact info?

2} Internet security. Would something like Hotspot Shield (on my personal laptop) be good, unnecessary, or not enough? Current laptop is running OSX.

3} To circumvent the frequent blocking of and domains, I was thinking of using Wordpress, but on my own domain, hosted in either France, or North America. The content may still be blocked on an individual basis, but would my identity be protected?

4} Would it be better to access the internet from my home connection, via laptop, go to an internet cafe and use their connection, and their computer, OR, use my personal laptop in an area with WIFI access, such as a restaurant or hotel? [sidenote: At "home" I will be sharing internet with acquaintances, and will be unable to "reconfigure" anything, or whathave you.]

5} I'm not looking to make money out of this. I will be in the country primarily for other reasons. But I do hope to use this as a chance to gain more exposure, and promote dialogue, on daily Turkish life, whatever that happens to entail. It would be nice, though not entirely necessary, if I was able to add this to my journalistic resume in some way, professionally. Is there a way to do this, while keeping a relatively low profile, and avoiding arrest?

Should I just be submitting articles to small, foreign media outlets instead?

Any advice on how to be an online journo in Turkey, while keeping ones integrity, and still maintaining a minimal level of safety, would be greatly appreciated. Perhaps I'm being overly fearful. I hope I am. I realize Turkey isn't China. I would just rather seek out advice in advance, than regret my naivety. Thanks!


I'm certain you're going to be wondering if I have a background in this at all; if I have any idea what I'm doing... I know it certainly doesn't seem like it from re-reading this. Well, I have a background in broadcast media, ENG camera work, docu editing, television script writing, and freelance photography. I have also traveled rather extensively. The general field of work is not new to me. Political/journo human rights blogging, however, is a new endeavor.

*Throwaway email: journoblogger at yahoo.FR*
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Blog with WordPress and run Tor.

Here's a guide to Anonymous Blogging with Wordpress & Tor.

I did this last year in a country with similar concerns and it worked quite well.
posted by k8t at 11:45 AM on January 1, 2009 [4 favorites]

I'd go with a pseudonym if you're going to be talking about human rights, unless you need to promote yourself for a career in journalism.
posted by k8t at 11:47 AM on January 1, 2009

Well, I have no experience with this, but you might even consider getting a collaborator in the States, or wherever you're from. Then you could e-mail your posts to them (with PGP encryption), and have them post your writing and photos anonymously. Seems like that would be pretty safe, but maybe it's overkill. It depends on how paranoid you are about the Turkish government, and how explosive your material is.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2009

tor is not nearly as secure as it's easy to believe. consider it just a first step and refrain from checking your email while it's enabled. also make sure it's actually and really working by checking your own IP if you choose to use it.

tor is a great idea but the execution at present is subpar.
posted by krautland at 12:28 PM on January 1, 2009

Could you expand on that krautland? Where are the insecurities?
posted by bonaldi at 2:53 PM on January 1, 2009

Most of the methods outlined in your own post and others are probably overkill - and using Tor over the long term could get quite tiresome. Like you said yourself, Turkey is not China. If you stay away from criticising Atatürk, and the Armenian genocide, you are unlikely to cause much fuss (apart from the odd flamer writing a poorly worded blog comment) - on most other issues there appears to be lively debate between Turks themselves. And even if you did mention those two "untouchables", unless your blog is super popular, it is likely to go unnoticed, especially if you are blogging in English and not Turkish.

Having said that, at least using a pseudonym is probably a wise step. I suppose also, once you decide on a method, you will have to continue using such a method for the lifetime of the blog. You may want to take a look at other expat blogs from Turkey for an idea of what kind of things you can freely discuss.
posted by ryanbryan at 3:36 PM on January 1, 2009

Turkey is not China and I doubt that unless, as other people said, you talk about a few certain items you'd get in big deal of trouble. Also, this might sound weird, but the fact that you are a foreigner kind of makes it unlikely that something would ever happen to you since Turkey is really concerned about bad PR.

However, as I you said, you'd want to be better safe than sorry and personally, I'm pretty concerned with such things myself. So my suggestions.

1. A pseudonym is fine. Also, be aware that if you include your name, it'll be on the internet pretty much forever and your name is all authorities need.

2. Tor is probably overkill. I have a feeling this step is overkill in general.

3. I think the best idea would be running your on server. It's not that expensive, a few dollars a month if you get something from Dreamhost or any other host. Your chances of getting blocked would be significantly smaller that way and also you can protect your identity better. This might be a bit tricky if you are not experienced but really it takes very very little effort, especially with Dreamhost. Everything is pretty much selecting a few options, no manual config.

4. Just use your own connection at home. Istanbul is pretty covered with some sort of WiFi connection; even small and non-franchise coffee shops just run a WiFi router as a courtesy. Such things aren't commercialized yet so you can find internet connection pretty easily if you need to.

5. You need content, before anything else. Let the thing go on for a while before trying to get it exposed, it'd just look more sincere that way.

I'm a Turkish student studying in US and I'm actually very very concerned about human rights issues and especially censorship in Turkey. I can't tell how grateful I am that you are taking time to bring up issues to the public as a professional journalist.

You should check out, it's a great blog by a foreign student living in Turkey. I actually discovered it when he was publishing stories about the blogger ban.

Also, I have a feeling that you'd be in a pretty unique position as a foreign journalist focusing on such issues. If you generate enough quality content, you can try contacting some progressive Turkish journalists and they might help you with the exposure you need. I'd be more than happy to direct you to those people and at least tell you about who's who in Turkey if you need to.

Feel free to send a private message if you need help with anything *Turkish* or technical. I'd be more than happy to help.
posted by the_dude at 8:39 AM on January 2, 2009

Could you expand on that krautland? Where are the insecurities?

I just read threat level.

New Service Makes Tor Anonymized Content Available to All , Tor Researcher Who Exposed Embassy E-mail Passwords Gets Raided by Swedish FBI and CIA (google is your friend)
posted by krautland at 12:17 PM on January 2, 2009

Not much else to add besides the above, but will blabber anyway:

You're kind of overthinking it. If you're going to write in English, I can't see much to worry about, really. And if you're going to write in Turkish, Turkish law courts don't care about what you actually wrote anyway: if they want to penalize someone, they do; minor things like "rights", "law" or "justice" don't enter into it (see: the case of Hrant Dink, who was sentenced for things he did not wrote, then got killed months later). I'm not telling you these to scare you off though, I live in Istanbul and have a heavily political blog on which i commit every kind of "crimes" against my state, and i use my real name and everything... Use a pseudonym, do what the_dude says and you'll be fine.

Actually, quite recently, Yigal Schleifer, a freelance journalist occasionally working for New York Times, Washington Post, Ha'aretz etc. started a blog similar to your planning... called Istanbul Calling. Maybe not that political, but there are other examples, too. One of my favorites is the Carpetblogger.

And do post your blog address here, so we can subscribe.

Best of luck.
posted by procrastinator at 1:02 AM on January 5, 2009

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