Conference at Columbia on Greece, Turkey & the Media in the New Political Landscape

Academics and journalists from Greece and Turkey who participated in the conference. Photo: TNH/ Vasilis Voultsos

NEW YORK – The conference Breaking News: Greece, Turkey, and the Media in the New Political Landscape took place May 3-4 at Columbia University, seeking to understand the ways in which the production, circulation, and consumption of news affect contemporary Greek-Turkish relations.

Beginning at Columbia on May 3 at the Faculty House and concluding on May 4 at Deutsches Haus, 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 consisted of Ioannis Mylonopoulos of Columbia University, Dimitris Antoniou of Columbia University, Katerina Lagos of California State University, Sacramento, and Ipek Cem Taha of Columbia Global Centers Istanbul.

The first panel, moderated by Konstantinos Tsiaras (Μember of the Greek Parliament, former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs), included Othon Anastasakis of the University of Oxford, Mustafa Aydın of Kadir Has University, and Ioannis Grigoriadis of Bilkent University. The economic crisis, the resurgence of nationalism and religious fanaticism, and the refugee crisis were discussed. Turkish professor Aydin noted that “cooperation with the EU is desirable but the possibility of Turkey as a member state of the Union is probably impossible.”

One of the discussion panels at the conference at Columbia. From right to left: Moderator Tasos Lagos with panelists Elena Lazarou, Dimitrios Triantaphyllou, and Paris Aslanidis. Photo: TNH/ Vasilis Voultsos

In the second panel, journalist Tasos Kostopoulos of the Efimerida ton Syntakton and Turkish journalist Cengiz Çandar, discussed the media landscape in Greece and Turkey. Çandar said, “There is indeed a media impact on bilateral relations between the two countries. Ninety-five percent of the media in Turkey are controlled by Erdogan and the remaining five percent are censored. I would describe the political status quo in Turkey as Eastern despotism rather than as democracy. Despite its problems, Greece is still a democratic country. Turkey is not.”

Kostopoulos related the history of mass media in Greece in four different historical phases from the end of the junta to the present.

The next panel with Afsin Yurdakul, Apostolos Mangiriadis, Rusen Çakir, and journalist Angelos Athanasopoulos who participated via Skype, discussed how television affects the way the news is presented. Yurdakul said, “Television is motion and emotion, so that way the news…aims to capture the interest of the audience. Greece plays two roles in the general collective mind of the Turkish people. In times of humanitarian crisis, like last year with the fires, it is our neighbor and one of us, we sympathize with them through the difficulties. On the other hand, we see it as a threat to our national security.”

Left to right: Panelists Rusen Çakir, Apostolos Mangiriadis, Afsin Yurdakul, and moderator Betsy Reed. Photo: TNH/ Vasilis Voultsos

Through Skype, Director of Kathimerini’s English edition, Athanasios Ellis, commented on the bad influence of journalists in international relations, when they do not do their job with integrity, and on social media tools and their role in policymaking. He said, “today it is much harder to control the images that could be damaging. Nevertheless it is rather a double-edged sword. In a good environment they could be useful, and in a difficult situation they could throw oil on the fire.”

The final day included moderator Taso Lagos, University of Washington, and speakers Paris Aslanides of Yale University, Dimitrios Triantaphyllou of Kadir Has University, and Political Analyst Dr. Elena Lazarou of the European Parliamentary Research Service. The conference concluded with thoughts on the future of Greek-Turkish relations and the role of the media and how to improve them. Lazarou suggested “enhancing media literacy, linking journalists with scientists and specialists, information and education in schools and universities about what misinformation is, what its consequences are, and what methods should be used to carry out objective research.”

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