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Diplomatic And Linguistic Roadblocks Keep Al Jazeera Turkish From Airing

Plans have long been in the works for a Turkish-language edition of Al Jazeera, which would help fulfil Turkey's diplomatic ambitions in the Middle East. But first they must resolve internal and external politics, and decide if PKK are to be call

Al Jazeera launched its English-language broadcast in 2006 (Paul Keller)
Al Jazeera launched its English-language broadcast in 2006 (Paul Keller)
Cengiz Semercioğlu

ISTANBUL - There are many ways for Turkey to fulfill its aspirations of becoming a major player in the Middle East. One sure way to be better seen and heard in the region would be the long awaited launch of a Turkish-language broadcast of satellite news giant Al Jazeera. Indeed, Turkey's Foreign Ministry has been a major proponent of an Al Jazeera Turkish project.

So why hasn't Al Jazeera started its Turkish broadcast yet? Is this related to Turkey's larger foreign policy dynamic, or to internal problems at Al Jazeera?

Al Jazeera's longtime managing director Waddah Khanfer, who brought the network to international prominence with the decision to release Osama Bin Laden's post 9/11 broadcasts, was eager to open a Turkish outlet, as well as one in Bosnia. But as Al Jazeera became a household name in news and Khanfer gained international prominence, the network's host country, Qatar grew concerned. Eventually, last September Khanfer stepped down from his post.

With Khanfer's removal as CEO, progress on both the Turkish and Bosnian broadcasts slowed. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera made separate investments in Turkish media by purchasing the CINE5 network, the first subscription-based television channel in Turkey.

Still Khanfer's removal isn't the only reason for the delay in Al Jazeera Turkish seeing the light of day. The broadcaster's editorial style also bears some responsibility. At the heart of the disagreement is controversy over how Al Jazeera will term the Kurdish militant group the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in its Turkish broadcasts. In its English and Arabic broadcasts, Al Jazeera does not call the PKK "terrorists' as they are generally referenced to in Turkey. Instead, Al Jazeera prefers the term "insurgent," as do most top international news agencies.

Al Jazeera has refused to budge on this point, considering it a matter of preserving journalistic standards. As a result, Turkey has found itself caught in a delicate situation with no easy solution, and has damaged the relationship between its Foreign Ministry and Al Jazeera. Earlier this year, a major Turkish investor, Vural Ak, withdrew from his partnership with Al Jazeera. Scholar and media expert Nuh Yilmaz, who had left a position in the United States to head up Al Jazeera's Turkish editorial team, wound up resigning alongside Ak.

So where does Al Jazeera Turkish go from here? Al Jazeera staff are still hard at work developing Turkish-language programming, and the close Turkey-Qatar relationship is as strong as ever. This could be enough to weather the crisis. But the experience is a reminder that a TV network that takes its news seriously should never be considered a tool for the foreign ministry.

Read the original article in Turkish

Photo - Paul Keller

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Brazil's Evangelical Surge Threatens Survival Of Native Afro-Brazilian Faith

Followers of the Afro-Brazilian Umbanda religion in four traditional communities in the country’s northeast are resisting pressure to convert to evangelical Christianity.

image of Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Abel José, an Umbanda priest

Agencia Publica
Géssica Amorim

Among a host of images of saints and Afro-Brazilian divinities known as orixás, Abel José, 42, an Umbanda priest, lights some candles, picks up his protective beads and adjusts the straw hat that sits atop his head. He is preparing to treat four people from neighboring villages who have come to his house in search of spiritual help and treatment for health ailments.

The meeting takes place discreetly, in a small room that has been built in the back of the garage of his house. Abel lives in the quilombo of Sítio Bredos, home to 135 families. The community, located in the municipality of Betânia of Brazil’s northeastern state of Pernambuco, is one of the municipality’s four remaining communities that have been certified as quilombos, the word used to refer to communities formed in the colonial era by enslaved Africans and/or their descendents.

In these villages there are almost no residents who still follow traditional Afro-Brazilian religions. Abel, Seu Joaquim Firmo and Dona Maura Maria da Silva are the sole remaining followers of Umbanda in the communities in which they live. A wave of evangelical missionary activity has taken hold of Betânia’s quilombos ever since the first evangelical church belonging to the Assembleia de Deus group was built in the quilombo of Bredos around 20 years ago. Since then, other evangelical, pentecostal, and neo-pentecostal churches and congregations have established themselves in the area. Today there are now nine temples spread among the four communities, home to roughly 900 families.

The temples belong to the Assembleia de Deus, the Seventh-day Adventist Church, and the World Church of God's Power, the latter of which has over 6,000 temples spread across Brazil and was founded by the apostle and televangelist Valdemiro Santiago, who became infamous during the pandemic for trying to sell beans that he had blessed as a Covid-19 cure. Assembleia de Deus alone, who are the largest pentecostal denomination in the world, have built five churches in Betânia’s quilombos.

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