The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), an Ankara-based pro-government think tank, is being financed mainly by the family of Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s finance and treasury minister and also the son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the German government said, Deutsche Welle reported on Nov. 14.
The German government made this statement in response to a parliamentary question submitted by the Left Party (Die Linke), inuring about the relationship between SETA and Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) as well as the institution’s funding sources.
“According to the knowledge of the Federal Government [of Germany], SETA is not a state institution. Its headquarters is in Ankara; it has branches in Istanbul, Brussels, Washington, Cairo and since 2017 in Berlin. The institution, which has close ties to the [Turkish] government, is mainly financed by the Albayrak family,” said the German government.
Serhat Albayrak, the brother of Berat Albayrak, is SETA’s chairperson. He is also a board member of Tukuvaz Media Group, one of the biggest media companies in Turkey.
The German government also said in its answer that it is aware of the close ties between SETA and AKP, adding Turkey’s Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun and Turkey’s Presidential Spokesperson İbrahim Kalın previously worked at this think tank.
Ulla Jelpke, a parliamentarian of the Left Party, criticized SETA in remarks made to Deutsche Welle Turkish, saying: “SETA has been exposing people which it characterizes as opponents abroad and making these relevant people targets of nationalist Turkish spies, trolls and assailants.”
The parliamentary question has also asked if the German intelligence agency had been following the activities of SETA in Berlin. The German government said it could not answer this question, but added that the authorities would act if SETA tried to increase its influence in Germany through illegal means.
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had previously submitted a parliamentary proposal to investigate the activites and funding sources of SETA, but this proposal was rejected by the votes of AKP and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputies.
In July of this year, SETA came under fire over publishing a report profiling journalists working for foreign media organizations. The 202-page report listed foreign news networks with Turkish services, such as the United Kingdom’s BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle, as well as the Turkish journalists who work for them, including detailed information about their past work.
The journalists’ social media postings, the content of their stories and the level of their engagement on social media platforms were also included in the report.
The report authors alleged that these journalists’ coverage is one-sided and unfair to the Turkish government.
Journalists associations and unions in Turkey have condemned SETA’s report, saying that it is essentially blacklisting journalists working for international media.