Reuters appeals Turkish court order to remove news article

(Reuters) – Reuters said on Monday it has appealed a Turkish court order to remove a news article on the agency’s website that said U.S. and Swedish prosecutors are studying a graft complaint naming a son of President Tayyip Erdogan.

In the court ruling, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, the news agency was given seven days to submit an objection.

A Reuters special report published on June 26 said anti-corruption authorities in the United States and Sweden are reviewing a complaint alleging that the Swedish affiliate of a U.S. company pledged to pay tens of millions of dollars in kickbacks if Erdogan’s son helped it secure a dominant market position in the country.

U.S. and Swedish authorities have initiated preliminary probes, the report said.

Ultimately, no kickbacks were paid, according to the complaint submitted to authorities by an individual and reviewed by Reuters.

In fact, Dignita Systems AB, the Swedish company, abruptly abandoned the project late last year, according to two people familiar with the matter and company communications seen by Reuters. Dignita’s U.S. owner confirmed the project was dropped in part over “potentially concerning conduct” in Turkey.

Reuters said it “has appealed the Court’s takedown order on the basis that it runs contrary to Turkish legal protections for freedom of the press and expression.

“Our story was prepared in keeping with Reuters’ Trust Principles and our commitment to the publication of fair and accurate reporting in the global public interest. We stand by it,” the agency said.

The Turkish presidency’s communications directorate did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Reuters appeal and statement.

Before the article’s publication, a senior official with the directorate declined to comment. Through a lawyer, Bilal Erdogan said before the article’s publication that allegations that he colluded with Dignita “are completely incorrect.” It is a “web of lies,” the lawyer added.

After the article’s publication, Turkey’s presidential communications director, Fahrettin Altun, said: “We condemn Reuters for serving this false news story.” The article contained “baseless claims”, he added.

The court ruling ordered that access be blocked to 93 web page addresses relating to the story. Some had published the original story, while others summarized or quoted from it, or posted tweets about it.

The ruling said the request to block access was made by a lawyer on behalf of the president’s son Bilal Erdogan. It said the article violated the son’s personal rights and was “far from reality, unconfirmed and far from goodwill”.

(Editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)