Press freedom has always been a controversial issue in Turkey, since the New Republic
was founded in 1923. In fact, with the spread of newspapers, journalists already felt the pressure on their neck in the time of the Ottoman Empire. It is a fact that there is no press freedom in Turkey. However, the analysis must be conducted objectively: while asking why governments have pressured media organizations, to sanctify the media doesn’t solve the current problem either.
Turkey has ranked in 154th place among 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index 2014 of Reporters Without Borders. It is not a surprise for Turkish people to witness journalists being arrested. In fact, it is almost an improvement if we consider that some famous journalists such as Ugur Mumcu, Abdi Ipecki, Cetin Emec or Hrant Dink were killed just because of their ideas and writings in the past. In late 2015, Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were arrested because the Turkish governments alleged that these journalists were spies. Both journalists fearlessly published the videos of 2014 National Intelligence Organization scandal. They were released two weeks ago by a judgment which led Erdogan to criticize the Supreme Court. Two CHP deputies, former journalists, have also been imprisoned and
subsequently released recently. Moreover, it is not a surprise that the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) brings publication bans when there is an explosion or a scandal concerning the Turkish state. Recently, the court has forced IMC TV, which is a pro-Kurdish TV channel, to be removed from TURKSAT. The sad thing is that all of these events were quite common in Turkey. In fact, the media had been pressured by governments before the AKP too, though the peak has been experienced during the AKP power.
17 December is a turning point in Turkey, as this date marks the beginning of the conflict between the Turkish government and the Gülen Movement. The brotherhood between Erdogan and Fethullah Gulen was broken and the time of confrontation started. Since then, the Turkish government has made countless investigations, arrests and accusations to the organizations that have a bond with the Cemaat of Gulen, who has a lot of bureaucrats in any layer of Turkish state. Their four TV channels were removed from all digital platforms while businessmen who financed the Cemaat organizations were arrested. In fact, these arrests were criticized by the majority of Turkish people, though
the Cemaat had been supported only by AKP supporters in the past. However, because the Gulen movement has been declared as a terrorist organization, the Turkish state can do anything against them. Last week, the Turkish state appointed a trustee for the famous daily “Zaman” and for Cihan News Agency, which were parts of Feza Publications. While protests were suppressed with the use of force by the police, it did not create as much indignation among Turks who remembered their old news.
It is very difficult for Turkey to have absolute press freedom. The majority of Turkish journalists do not know the ethics of media. In fact, almost all of their publications are subjective, unilateral, unsought and speculative. Although they did not take a good education in their field, they discuss anything in television without knowing anything about the topic just to earn more money and to attract attention of policy-makers. There are few successful young journalists, but the veterans do not want to be a part of that rubbish. As an example, the new of daily “Bugün”, which is now operated by pro-AKP journalists after it was brought under trusteeship, asserted that Selin Sayek Boke – a CHP deputy – was baptized, so that conservatives can easily blame secular people as “Crusaders”. During Gezi protests, pro-AKP media organs, including “Zaman”, made completely false news so that people became more polarized.
There is no risk of suppressing press freedom in Turkey as it has never existed before. Journalists are under pressure of the Turkish state as much as any other organizations. They have no power to investigate the issues that are against the interests of Turkish state. If they do, they can be easily arrested as Can Dundar and Erdem Gul were. Personally, I do not believe the media is totally free. Media should be free if it really only makes true news, which rarely happens in Turkey. I hope that both media and Turkish bureaucrats will understand their mistakes and try to fix them and I hope that pressure on journalists will disappear not only in Turkey but all over the world.
Yusufcan Toprak is a 2015 Graduate of Democracy
Disclaimer: This Post reflects solely the author’s opinion and do not represent the platform as a whole