May 28, 2023 | Tagesschau

Disinfo narratives are redundant in Erdogan’s Turkey, “have more reach abroad”

The Turkish presidential election was characterised by widespread disinformation, with parties on both sides resorting to fake photos and videos, accusations of support for the PKK (controversial Kurdistans’ Workers Party) and distortions of immigration numbers. ISD Resident Senior Fellow Rashad Ali spoke to German-media outlet Tagesschau Faktenfinder about the reach these narratives had both in the domestic realm and across Western media, and why its impact was redundant within the country.  

Rashad points out how opposition parties, CHP and HDP, turned to accusations against Erdogan (AKP party) of “Arabising and Islamising Turkey.” The parties publicly accused the ruling government of wanting to naturalise 3.6M Syrian refugees in order to secure their votes, when it is estimated that only 200,000 to 300,000 Syrians have been naturalised in recent years, said Rashad. 

“This is wrong on so many levels […]. For one thing, few of the Syrians who have fled hold Turkish passports. For another, this narrative also promotes hatred toward Syrians and brands them as Islamists.”

When asked about disinformation spread by Erdogan’s own party, Rashad explained that targeted disinformation was “simply not needed” because his regime had been drip feeding these narratives to the Turkish population for years. He emphasized the control that Erdogan’s government has over mainstream media in the country, limiting critical discussions and contributing to a biased media landscape.

Rashad concluded that disinformation has played a rather small role in the election outcome. “I think many of the videos and images have reached more people abroad than in Turkey itself.”