A top advisor of the prime minister complained to the police that a journalist working for the “community media” was taking photographs of him and recording his voice.
The husband of the Rome representative of a newspaper of the “allegiant media” traveled to Pennsylvania, met with Fethullah Gülen, the spiritual head of the “Hizmet” (Service) community for an interview. The female reporter was immediately sacked by the “allegiant newspaper,” forgetting the principle of “individuality of crime” even though a journalist conducting a newspaper interview with someone – at least so far – is not considered a crime even in this advanced democracy of regressed democratic values.
Journalists working for the “community media” were asked to comply with new rules. What rules? No praise of the government, particularly of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Some did not believe the ruling party or the premier deserved to be exempted of praise; some did not do any sort of journalism apart from bootlicking anyhow. Many of them were laid off over the past few months because of “discipline deficiency”… Real reason? Incompatibility with the “spirit” of the “community media.”
Scores of journalists working for either the “community” or the “allegiant” media were laid off over the past few months. Indeed, many people from the “mainstream media” lost their jobs as well, but there was a sharp difference between journalists sacked by the mainstream media and the rest. In the mainstream media, the reason behind most sackings was austerity or administrative restructuring to cope with the worsening financial situation. Many smaller papers, for example, almost closed down their Ankara offices and instead of having an office now, have a desk or two in the newsroom of the Ankara office of the “mother” newspaper. Why? Better use of resources! Why don’t we have just one newspaper then? Or why don’t we have a team of journalists writing to a pool and newspapers and TV stations just select and use any material from that pool? Alas, that has become the routine of Turkish media…
Still, no one can say anything to a newspaper administration if it decides to sack some personnel or prefers to make better use of its personnel resource by merging its existing capacities, and establishing a joint editorial office for a variety of its publications. That is an “economic” undertaking. But is it possible to show the same understanding for undertakings by media bosses with political considerations? Wasn’t the backbone of our profession the right to criticize? Weren’t journalists expected to be the critical eye of their societies? Wasn’t journalism expected to be the fourth power of a working democracy – of course after judiciary, executive and the legislation – and serve as some sort of “auditor?”
Was the advisor at a top secret meeting at the Foreign Ministry? Was he discussing a conspiracy with some other top security officials how to legitimize a Turkish attack on a neighboring country? Why would a ban clamp down censure on that case, but the Turkish state remains spectator to advisors turning into vagabonds or newspaper editors turning into guardians of the neighborhood? How can a journalist be responsible for something her husband did, let alone how an interview can be something to be punished?
The nation is polarized, peoples are polarized, media is polarized… Can this be a photograph of a sustainable state of affairs? Can this continue? Can all these be left behind with a balcony speech? Turkey badly needs to dump some of its political load to avoid capsizing…