US-Turkey Relations in the Light of Turkey's Freedom of Press

By Erdem, Bora | Global Media Journal, June 2018 | Go to article overview

US-Turkey Relations in the Light of Turkey's Freedom of Press


Erdem, Bora, Global Media Journal


Introduction

The issue of the press freedom and the freedom of expression in Turkey has for many years attracted a great deal of attention and provoked extensive debate both in Turkey and in many other Western countries. According to the U.S.-based Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization that promotes press freedom worldwide, Turkey has been mentioned as one of the countries which have got no free press in the world [1]. According to the annual freedom of press report by Freedom House in 2017, the Turkish government, through the use of enhanced powers under the state of emergency, carried out a massive crackdown on media outlets on the justification of an attempted military coup. The government authorities took control of some media broadcasts and detained a large number of journalists. Journalists, particularly those who work in the Kurdish Southeast, went through serious obstacles in their reporting, including threats, violence and criminal investigations. Under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the country has suffered a substantial drop in the freedom of the press over the past ten years [2]. The government has used the penal code of criminal defamation and counter-terrorism laws to detain a large number of journalists. Turkey has since witnessed a sharp decline in media freedom for the last five years, affecting its relationship with many Western countries, including the United States, which had many of her citizens jailed on dubious charges. What is more important, absence of a free media limits existence of healthy debates in public domain about Turkey's disengagement with the U.S. and the Western world in a way of realignment with more authoritarian-minded countries, such as Russia and Iran. The government's mastery of the press also enables it to steer public opinion amid lack of transparency, leaving little space for diverse opinions that would endorse more engagement with the EU countries. Instead, the daily anti-Western rhetoric in media helps government to cloak the foreign policy shift from the attention of the public.

Overview of Freedom of Press and Censorship in Turkey

The press freedom in Turkey has been a problematic issue given the long history of political control of media and turbulent relationship between media and political authorities. But it went particularly worse over the past few years with the imprisonment of journalists. Censorship was introduced into the country in 2004 constitution amendments and is regulated by both domestic and the international laws [3]. Although the legal provision in Article 90 of the constitution of Turkey advocates for the rights of journalists, media freedom has deteriorated steadily since the coup attempt in 2016. The president has ordered for the arrest of hundreds of journalists and dozens of media outlets have been closed. According to report by the U.S.-based Freedom House, Turkey accounts for one third of the world's jailed journalists. Since 2013, Turkey has been ranked by Freedom House as not free, with observers placing the country among the leading countries violating media freedom.

The highly diagnostic standard that can be used to measure lack of press freedom is the number of journalists jailed. The office of the representative on media freedom provided a detailed list of some journalists arrested in Turkey, and the number stood at 78 by August 2012. The number from the CPJ showed 76 detained journalists with whom 61 were directly imprisoned for their direct publications or journalistic works.

By December 2012, the number dropped slightly to 49 due to the release of many detainees by courts. According to the recent reports by CPJ, Turkey leads in the highest number of imprisoned journalists, followed by Iran and China [4]. Despite recent reforms that allowed for the release of some detainees, the situation has for the last five years deteriorated to the worst. …

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