Freedom of the press, Turkish-style
From Today’s Zaman:
The Turkish Journalists Union (TGS) has announced that at least 22 journalists have been fired in connection with the Gezi Park protests, while 37 others have had to resign from their posts.
The İstanbul branch of the TGS held a press conference on Sunday to discuss dismissals and resignations from media outlets. Many journalists were in attendance, including Akşam columnist Tuğçe Tatari, who was dismissed, and Culture and Arts Editor Hasan Cömert, who resigned from his position.
Speaking at the conference, TGS İstanbul branch head Gökhan Durmuş said 22 journalists have been fired and 37 others forced to resign since May 27, when a small group of environmentalists began a sit-in protest in Gezi Park in the heart of İstanbul, attempting to block the government’s plan to build an Ottoman-style barracks on the park. Following a heavy-handed police crackdown on the peaceful protesters, thousands took to the streets and rallies spread across Turkey. Five people, including a policeman, died and more than 7,000 were injured in the clashes, according to a Turkish rights group.
“These dismissals and resignations are mostly related to censorship policies followed by some media outlets in dealing with the Gezi Park resistance,” Durmuş said, adding that media workers are trying their best to resist the pressure exerted by media bosses and the government.
“Our colleagues worked hard for the public’s right to be informed, and they paid for it with their jobs. Some have been censored, some had their TV programs shut down. There are even journalists who have been sacked due to their tweets. A colleague has been dismissed from his job just for saying hi to a [Gezi] protester,” Durmuş further stated, calling on all media workers to cooperate with the union to fight against pressure.
A NYT op-ed on Sunday highlighted the problem as well, blaming the cozy relationships between conglomerates that include the media as well as infrastructure that requires government cooperation:
Turkey’s rapidly growing economy has caused such greed that the media owners regularly counteract the judgment of professional journalists who are trying to do their jobs on behalf of the public. Editorial content is strictly controlled by media bosses who have other business interests and are submissive to the government. With, or more often without, any direct government intervention, they impose self-censorship on a daily basis and silence colleagues who defend basic journalistic ethics. With hardly any union presence in these outlets, there is very little job security.
…THE Turkish media’s pathological dysfunction is just one example of a much broader phenomenon. An extensive study conducted for the European Union by a group of journalists and independent media experts from across the continent found similar problems throughout southeastern Europe.
“Many media owners and leading journalists have vested political and economic interests and use their position to engage in ruthless ‘media wars’ against political opponents,” the report found.
…The more media moguls get involved in shady dealings with governments, the more their greed blocks all decent journalism and destroys journalists’ ability to hold the government accountable. A corrupted media can never uncover corruption in a credible manner.