Breaking News: Greece, Turkey, and the Media in the New Political Landscape

May 02, 2019

On May 3 and 4, Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul hosted “Breaking News: Greece, Turkey, and the Media in the New Political Landscape” on Columbia University’s campus in New York City. The two-day conference sought to understand the ways in which the production, circulation, and consumption of news affect contemporary Greek-Turkish relations. The role of news media was brought to the fore during the 1996 dispute between the two countries over the Imia/Kardak islet in the Aegean Sea, when extensive news coverage played a driving role in escalating tensions. While most considerations of Greek-Turkish relations tend to focus on historical animosity or geopolitical developments, this conference asked what understandings of these relations emerge from an examination of the ways in which news media shape foreign policy. This question is particularly pressing today as a result of developments in digital technologies and the radical reconfiguration of the media and political landscape in Greece and Turkey. The conference brought together academics, policy makers, journalists, and media producers to consider topics such as the significance of information and objectivity in an era of so-called “fake news,” the role of public opinion in the shaping of foreign policy, diplomacy and statecraft in the digital era, and the methodological challenges of studying news media as crucial actors in international relations.

Opening remarks were given by Safwan M. Masri, Executive Vice President for Global Centers and Global Development, Columbia University; Ioannis Mylonopoulos, Associate Professor, Ancient Greek Art, Architecture, and Archaeology, Columbia University; and Dimitris Antoniou, Lecturer, Modern Greek History and Culture, Department of Classics, Columbia University.

The first panel was on “Greece and Turkey in a Changing World,” and considered the current state of Greek-Turkish relations in a social, geopolitical, and media context. The panelists reviewed the contemporary situation of Greece and Turkey (financial crisis, resurgent nationalism, religious bigotry), enduring and novel issues in the countries’ bilateral relations (refugee crisis, anti-regime Turks finding refuge in Greece, oil explorations), the role of third countries and international organizations, and depictions of Greek-Turkish relations in the media. Othon Anastasakis, Director, South East European Studies, Oxford, spoke on “Greek-Turkish Relations and the Weakening of Europe’s Leverage;” Mustafa Aydın, Professor, International Relations, Kadir Has University and President, International Relations Council of Turkey, spoke on “Moving beyond the Security Dilemma: Coping with Uncertainty in Turkish-Greek Relations;” Ioannis N. Grigoriadis, Associate Professor and Jean Monnet Chair of European Studies, Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Bilkent University; spoke on “Reporting Greek-Turkish Relations: On Asymmetries and Stereotypes.” The panel was moderated by Konstantinos Tsiaras, Μember of the Greek Parliament, and former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs.

The second panel titled, “Mapping the Media Landscape,” examined the new media landscape in Greece and Turkey at the intersection of business and political interests. Panelists discussed media ownership, censorship, and relations between media and the state. Murat Yetkin, journalist and author of the YetkinReport, spoke (his paper was read at the conference as he was unable to attend in-person) on the “Changes in the Impact of Media on Turkish-Greek Relations through the Years Due to Shifts in the Media Landscape;” Cengiz Çandar, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies and Senior Associate Fellow, Swedish Institute of International Affairs, spoke on the “Impact of Erosion of Mainstream Media in Turkey and the Violations of Freedom of Expression on the Future of Greek-Turkish Relations;” and Tasos Kostopoulos, journalist, Athenian daily Efimerida ton Syntakton, spoke on “A Farewell to Later Metapolitefsi: Greek Media between the Scylla of Capital Concentration and Cyberspace Charybdis.” The panel was moderated by Chiara Superti, Director of the M.A. program in Political Science and Lecturer in Political Science at Columbia University.

The third panel was on “The Making of News” and focused on the technologies that inform news production and the technical considerations that scholars often overlook. How do media professionals decide that something is newsworthy and trustworthy? How is a piece of Greek-Turkish news prioritized in the news agenda? What is the impact of social media on foreign policy? Afşin Yurdakul, journalist and news anchor, and Robert L. Long Fellow, Nieman Foundation for Journalism, Harvard University, spoke on “(Dis)covering the Komshu: When and Why Greece Leads in Turkish Television News”; Apostolos Mangiriadis, Political Correspondent, SKAI TV, and Radio Producer, SKAI Radio, spoke on “Nightly News: Style or Substance?”; Angelos Athanasopoulos, Senior Editor of Diplomatic, Defence and EU Affairs for newspapers “To Vima” and “Ta Nea”, spoke on “The Greek-Turkish Conflict and its Coverage in Greek Media: Is it a Case Study of the Pavlov Experiment?”; and Ruşen Çakır, Editorial Director and Commentator, Medyascope TV, spoke on “Why Greek-Turkish Relations are not Popular Anymore in Turkish Media?” The panel was moderated by Betsy Reed, Editor-in-Chief, The Intercept.

Following the third panel was a salon session featuring a discussion with Athanasios Ellis, Editor-in-Chief of the English edition of the Kathimerini, on the Imia/Kardak crisis and the evolution of media coverage of Greek-Turkish relations since 1996.

The first day of the conference wrapped up with a keynote message by Ann Cooper, CBS Professor Emerita of Professional Practice in International Journalism, Columbia Journalism School, on “Is Press Freedom Poisoning the Marketplace of Ideas?”

The second day started with the final panel of the conference on “Diplomacy, Statecraft, and the Media,” which outlined the scholarly contributions of the conference and asked what a media-informed study of the Greco-Turkish relations entails and how we might study the media as actors in international relations. Paris Aslanidis, Lecturer, Department of Political Science and the Hellenic Studies Program, MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University, spoke about “The Impact of Populist and Anti-populist Narratives on Greek-Turkish Relations;” Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for International and European Studies, Kadir Has University, spoke about “Moving beyond the Pyrotechnics: Reporting on the Substance of Greek-Turkish Relations;” and Elena Lazarou, Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences of the Getulio Vargas Foundation, spoke on “Mass Media and the Legitimization of Foreign Policy Choices: From the Greek-Turkish Imia Crisis to the EU's Current Foreign Policy.” The panel was moderated by Taso G. Lagos, Lecturer, University of Washington.

The conference concluded with a roundtable discussion on “Looking Αhead: The Future as Spectacle, the Future as Data” with the panelists, and moderated by Peter Bratsis, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Borough of Manhattan Community College. In the roundtable discussion, the panelists considered the future of Greek-Turkish relations by taking into account trends in social media and data analysis.

The conference was organized by the Program in Hellenic Studies, the Hellenic Studies Program at California State University—Sacramento, Columbia's Global Center in Istanbul, and the University Seminar in Modern Greek, with additional sponsorship by the Sakıp Sabancı Center for Turkish Studies and the Department of Classics. The organizing committee was Dimitris Antoniou, Lecturer, Modern Greek History and Culture, Department of Classics, Columbia University; Katerina Lagos, Director, Hellenic Studies Program; University of California, Sacramento; Ipek Cem Taha, Director, Columbia Global Centers | Istanbul.