The new test for journalism

The new test for journalism

So at the end of the day journalism has not died in Turkey.

If it had died as some of our colleagues have been saying lately out of pessimism, there wouldn’t be any need felt to issue the publication ban to the news about the commission’s corruption investigation for the four former ministers.

The statement by Hakkı Köylü, the commission’s head from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that “We were obliged at the end to do this,” is a reflection of the uneasiness about journalism at work.

I need to say it proudly that Hürriyet’s share in this uneasiness is big, too.

Hürriyet covered the news on the commission about the four former AKP ministers with the same interest it has done so the investigation commissions of ministers from (former ruling parties) ANAP or DYP. It used an objective language for the developments in the commission. Obviously, Hürriyet was not only the only media outlet that meticulously covered the developments in the commission.

Cumhuriyet, Taraf, Yurt and Birgün were among the newspapers that widely covered the news about the commission. Yet there were also newspapers that totally ignored the developments in the commission. If their mentality were to be valid for other journalists, the government would not have felt this ban. Yet it seems those media outlets blindness’ to the developments was not effective.

The newspapers in this category did not even feel the need to inform their readers in detail about the publication ban. On Nov. 27, the news about the publication was not even in newspapers like Star, Bugün or Takvim. Türkiye, Özgür Gündem, Sabah, Akşam, Yeni Şafak, Yeni Akit, Milliyet and Vatan hardly saw the news in their interior pages.

It is interesting that Daily Sabah had the main page headline “Democracy Lesson to Repressive RTÜK” in address to the broadcasting watchdog of the country, after a fine issued by the Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) to channel ATV due to its broadcasting during the elections. 

However, it preferred to run a very small story on page 12 about the gag order on the commission activities, headlining it as “Baseless accusations against Çiçek.” It saw no need to enlighten its readers on what was happening at the commission.

Unlike those who ignored the news, some media organizations denounced the gag order, defending that it was against law.

Different than others, Hürriyet had the story about the ban on its first page one day earlier. It presented the developments under a main page headline story titled “To protect their reputation” on Nov. 27. The story included both developments and reactions to the order and former Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar’s quotes at the commission.

On Nov. 28, it ran a lead article on the matter and published a broad version of former Minister Egemen Bağış, in addition to the reactions to the order. 

On Nov. 29, it had “Their business was good,” as the headline story, as it had “Everything kicks you when you are down,” and “Bağış says wiretappings are manipulated, Bayraktar says all are authentic” on Nov. 30.

In short, Hürriyet fulfilled its journalism duties; it showed respect to its readers’ right to learn. Such an attitude that does not compromise press freedom deserves a compliment.

Another problematic side of the issue is that courts approve every demand from the government.
Courts that are used to issue gag orders are now placing the “reputation and personal rights” of four former ministers over press freedom and the people’s right to access information.

However, freedoms are the priority in democracies. As Hürriyet highlighted in its leading editorial, “Democracies are regimes that breathe through the values of openness, the right for the people to be informed and press freedom.”

However, if bans that are meant to be exceptional are broadening every day, cutting the breath of democracy and becoming censorship, defending it and freedom becomes a task on the shoulders of the media. The media is today on the eve of a new test.