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Stoltenberg’s remarks on terrorism misrepresented by Turkey’s pro-gov’t media despite transcript

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Some pro-government Turkish journalists and media outlets have persisted in misrepresenting the remarks of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on the fight against terrorism, claiming that Stoltenberg talked about the fight against the Gülen movement despite a transcript of his speech contradicting their claim.

NATO on Tuesday kicked off momentous accession procedures for Sweden and Finland, aiming to expand the military alliance to 32 countries in reaction to Russia’s war on Ukraine. The accession procedures for the two countries were able to start after Turkey dropped its objections and signed a memorandum of understanding with Sweden and Finland during a NATO summit in Madrid last week, through which Turkey said it had made significant gains in the fight against terrorist organizations.

A press conference was held in Brussels by Stoltenberg, Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Pekka Haavisto and Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs Ann Linde following the signature of the NATO Accession Protocols for Finland and Sweden on Tuesday.

Stoltenberg said during the press conference that although Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to close NATO’s door by launching a war on Ukraine, the organization’s door remains open, with the invitation of “two close and highly valued partners, Finland and Sweden, to become full members.”

In further remarks, he said: “I think the best way of winning minds and hearts is to continue to do exactly what we do, stand together in addressing all the different security threats we face both a more aggressive Russia, but also, of course, the threat of terrorism which is something which is high on the NATO agenda.”

“The threat of terrorism” remark was misconstrued as “Fetö terrorism” by some journalists at the press conference. “Fetö” is a derogatory term coined by the Turkish government to refer to the faith-based Gülen movement as a terrorist organization.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

When Stoltenberg was asked to elaborate on his remarks, he did not make any reference to the Gülen movement. The release of the official transcript left no room for any misrepresentation of his words as the text clearly showed there was no reference to “Fetö.”

The release of the transcript prompted TRT World reporter Andrew Hopkins to delete his previous tweets about Stoltenberg’s alleged reference to “Fetö” terrorism.

However, TRT World chose not to delete its tweet about Stoltenberg’s nonexistent words on “Fetö terrorism” in an obvious attempt to manipulate the NATO chief’s remarks.

Frederike Geerdink, a Dutch journalist who used to work in Turkey, slammed TRT World for its manipulation, tweeting, “no, he said ‘the threat of terrorism’, not ‘fetö terrorism’, you manipulative liars of erdogan’s trt. jens stoltenberg would never say ‘fetö terrorism’, it’s quatsch. fetö as a terrorist group only exists in turkey’s imagination, nobody recognizes it as such, let alone nato.”

The Gülen movement is not recognized as a terrorist organization by the European countries or the United States.

Pro-government journalist Hilal Kaplan, who writes for the Sabah daily, was among those who misrepresented Stoltenberg’s remarks despite the wording in the transcript.

“NATO Secretary General stated that ‘FETO terrorism is high threat on the NATO agenda.’ This is a first and also a good beginning to show Türkiye that our security concerns are taken seriously. Now it’s time to see some concrete steps,“ she tweeted.

In another tweet in Turkish, Kaplan said it is the political genius of Erdoğan that caused NATO to mention “Fetö terrorism.”

Journalist Müyesser Yıldız also misquoted Stoltenberg’s remarks about so-called “Fetö terrorism,” in a tweet, saying that everyone should pay attention to the NATO chief’s words.

Pro-government media outlets such as the Star, Haber Türk, TGRT Haber also misquoted Stoltenberg’s remarks with some of them claiming that a new era is beginning against the fight against “Fetö.”

The MoU signed last week in Madrid also did not refer to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization but one referred to as such in Turkey.

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