Freedom of press cannot be sacrificed to ideological debate

Freedom of press cannot be sacrificed to ideological debate

We are again ideologically split into two with the latest press freedom report from Freedom House, the independent watchdog organization.

Sides are adopting blind stances without even bothering to read these kinds of reports by either saying, “These guys are trying to create a perception against Turkey; in fact our country is freer than those countries that say their press is the freest,” or they say, “Finally, the world has seen how bad freedoms are plunging in Turkey; Turkey is fast becoming a dictatorship.”

Neither of these views are true. Just as in any other issue, it is also present in the issue of the freedom of the press that, “the devil is in the details” and in order to see these details, it is adequate to read the report in a calm state.

First, basic information: According to the report, Turkey has received 62 out of 100 points. As points increase, freedoms decrease. In other words, any amount of points between 0 and 30 are free countries, between 31 and 60 are partially free countries, while 61 and 100 are “not free” countries.

In the previous report, our points were at 56, in other words, we were a “partially free” country, but dangerously close to the “not free” zone. Since 1993, we have been below 50 points; only in 2004 and 2005 with 48 points; we have always been dangerously close to the “not free zone” anyway.

Well, where do these 62 points come from? The Freedom House makes its survey under three categories.

There are eight categorical questions and various sub-questions for “Legal Environment.” Each question has different points. Let me cite an example of a question for “Legal Environment.” “Do the penal code, security laws, or any other laws restrict reporting and are journalists or bloggers punished under these laws? There are eight sub-questions under this question. The worst point to be received is 6 points.

In the “Legal Environment” Turkey was able to receive 23 negative points out of the 30 total.

The second chapter of Freedom House is “Political Environment.” There are seven questions in this category and many sub-questions. One example is “To what extent are media outlets’ news and information content determined by the government or a particular partisan interest?” I don’t even need to remind that what is meant here is not only pro-government media, categorically ‘opposition” media is also covered in this question. The question has a value of 0 to 10 points.

Turkey received 26 negative points out of 40 points under the “Political Environment” section.

The last one is “Economic Environment” and there are eight categorical questions with many sub-questions. (Under the three chapters of the report, there are 23 categorical questions and there are a total of 137 sub-questions under them.) One example of the questions of “Economic Environment” is this: “To what extent are media owned or controlled by the government and does this influence their diversity of views?” This question has a value of 0 to 6 points.

Turkey received 13 negative points on the “Economic Environment” section out of the total 30.

Failing in legal environment

Actually the three categories in the Freedom House assessment are related to each other, but I guess the Political Environment and the Legal Environment are very much related to each other.

When we take a look, we received 23 of the 30 negative points in the Legal Environment and 26 of the 40 negative points in Political Environment. Any will emerging as to correct the legal environment no doubt will correct the political environment as well.