Turkish public are unaware of the hardships journalists face
When you are in it, you might sort of get used to it. That’s why sometimes it becomes important when someone holds up a mirror.
I had this sentiment when I came across the findings of the “media barometer,” a study conducted with the support of a German think tank, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
An expert group, made of five members of the media and five representatives of the relevant nongovernmental organizations, came together to evaluate the Turkish media by taking reference points set by the European Union and the United Nations.
They rated issues, such as the degree to which press freedom is under constitutional and legal guarantees, and the degree to which the press is independent, etc.
On constitutional and legal guarantees of freedom of the press, the expert group gave Turkey 2.5 out of 5. On diversity and independence of the media, it gave a mere 1.6.
Normally, I don’t really like these types of quantified evaluations. While they can provide a good tool to evaluate and understand the current state of affairs, sometimes they don’t properly reflect the situation. I find it bizarre, for instance, that Turkey ranks after countries like Qatar, Kyrgyzstan, Iraq or Libya on Reporters without Borders' press freedom index.
I am more interested with the specific hardships journalists face, which was reflected in the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung report. This is important because some readers in Turkey are not fully aware of these hardships. And there is one group that is not only ignorant of these hardships, but is also extremely angry with journalists.
Their anger is fueled by their frustration of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). They are angry that the AKP is winning consecutive elections at the ballot box. They are angry that the AKP is using every means to transform Turkish society into a more conservative one. They are angry that the Turkish press is not doing enough to fight the AKP’s authoritarian tendencies, (while by contrast they themselves won’t move a finger to struggle for a more democratic system).
Some are aware that there is tremendous pressure on the press and that the media is not totally free in Turkey, but they still direct their anger at journalists.
Indeed, there are some commentators, columnists, editor-in-chiefs and editors who betray their profession by working as a propaganda machine of the government. They work in media outlets that have been bought by businessmen with the sole intention of serving the interests of the AKP.
But there is another category of journalists - whether they be in the pro-government media or in other media outlets - who are absolutely not happy with the current state of affairs, but need to continue where they are because:
a) Either there is nowhere else to go
b) Or they have alternatives, but prefer to do as much as they can until the situation improves.
The Turkish press is currently in an economic and political crisis. Media outlets are engaged in a survival strategy, both politically and financially. As it becomes more and more difficult to survive, media outlets are resorting to downsizing.
The angry AKP-hating Turks are not aware that 384 journalists have lost their jobs between July 2013 and June 2014.
These angry Turks won’t launch an open struggle against the government, so as to not jeopardize their own jobs, but they don’t see a problem with criticizing journalists for not being more critical of the government.
Angry Turks need to realize that press freedom is important, not for the sake of journalists, but for them as well, if they want to live in a better country. For that, they need to understand the hardships of the press sector, support the media, and start by buying newspapers, for instance.