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Debunked: No, there wasn't a media blackout on Simon Coveney's official visit to Turkey last month

It has been claimed that the media was told not to cover the minister’s trip last month.

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A NUMBER OF posts on social media claim there was a media blackout on a recent trip by Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney to Turkey.

The claim was first made in a Facebook post shared over 150 times which was accompanied by a photo of Coveney on the trip.

It said: “Coveney in Turkey seeking more migrents [sic] to welcome into Ireland. Media blackout on this trip.”

Another post about the trip has the caption, “Why no Irish media coverage of this foreign trip”, while another claimed that no Irish websites had covered Coveney’s “3 day holiday” to Turkey. 

However, there was no media blackout on the trip. The trip was reported by multiple media outlets in Ireland, both before and after Coveney’s trip.

A media blackout refers to the censorship of news related to a certain topic by news organisations.

They are rarely used in Ireland, where they are almost exclusively put in place for security reasons on foot of requests from gardaí, usually when they are responding to hostage situations or other situations where individuals are armed.

The government has not issued a request for a media blackout in the decade that TheJournal.ie has been operating; further, it is not certain that media outlets would comply with such a request if it did happen.

Irish media outlets have their own internal processes for deciding which stories are covered each day and which ones aren’t.

There is no evidence to support the claim that there was any outside interference in media outlets that didn’t cover Coveney’s trip to Turkey, or that it was anything other than a choice made by newsrooms not to do so.

Coveney’s trip to Turkey took place between 27 and 28 January, when he visited the cities of Ankara and Hatay to hold talks with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu and observe cross-border humanitarian aid to civilians in Syria.

A number of other, bigger stories were covered during the time the minister’s trip took place, including the EU’s row over vaccines with AstraZeneca, the fatal stabbing of a teenager in East Wall in Dublin, the Taoiseach’s comments about how many passengers at Dublin Airport had been on holiday, Gamestop shares, and a NPHET briefing.

The proposed trip was reported in the Irish Times on 22 January, almost a full week before Coveney travelled to Turkey.

The trip was further discussed on RTE.ie on 3 February, which is after the original post was published on Facebook, but is further evidence that there has not been a blackout. 

Images taken during the trip were also posted on the Irish Embassy in Turkey’s official Twitter page on 29 January.

At a webinar given by Irish Peace and Conflict Network on Tuesday which was attended by some members of the media, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs also spoke about being on the trip with the minister.

The Department of Foreign Affairs was asked to clarify why details of the trip were not sent to newsrooms in a press release beforehand, but no response was received by TheJournal.ie by the time of publication.

However, it is false to say that there was a media or any other kind of blackout in place during the minister’s trip. 

Likewise, there is no evidence for the claim that the minister was seeking to accept migrants into Ireland while in Turkey.

A press release by the Turkish foreign ministry before the trip said Coveney and his Turkish counterpart planned to discuss issues relating to Turkey’s accession to the EU and regional and international affairs given Ireland’s place on the UN Security Council.

The picture used to accompany the Facebook post making a claim of a media blackout was taken while Coveney observed cross-border humanitarian aid to civilians in Syria.

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There is no proof that the minister sought to accept more migrants at this or any other point on the trip.

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie

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