Turkey’s shameful press freedom record

Turkey’s shameful press freedom record

It was in 2014 when the Freedom House decreased Turkey’s press freedom status from partly free to not free as a result of sharp deterioration in press freedom in 2013. Today, Turkey, along with its Middle Eastern, African, Gulf and many close and far Asian neighbors, enjoy the category of “Not Free” in the media freedom.

I do not know if those who are responsible in turning Turkey into such embarrassment are feeling ashamed of the point Turkish media has arrived at but I, as a Turkish journalist and citizen, felt this way when I saw a large world map displaying the status of press freedom in the world on a wall at the Newseum, in Washington D.C.

Turkey, along with other not free countries, was painted in dark red while partly free countries were in yellow and free ones in green. As a matter of fact, according to the Freedom House map, the free media can be seen in only a number of countries in the North America and in Western Europe. A good majority of countries in the world have either partly or not free media environment, the map revealed, also indicating how the issue is significant in regards to the future of democracy in the world.

A good example to this would be the refugee crisis the world is trying to deal with nowadays. The countries these hundreds of thousands of refugees try to escape from are the ones on the Not Free media list, whereas their target countries enjoy free media environment, roughly indicating that their escape is for freedom in a broader sense. There is no need to discuss the relationship between the level of democracy and the freedom of expression and the press.

It should not be surprising to observe the level of the democracy in a country like the United States which has written freedom of speech and freedom of press along with freedom of assembly, of religion and of petition in its constitution in 1787. In today’s world, a country’s democratic maturity is often measured by its treatment on the media and its actions to protect the space for free journalism.

Again from the Newseum:

“Free press is a cornerstone of democracy. People have a need to know. Journalists have a right to tell. Finding the facts can be difficult. Reporting the story can be dangerous. Wisdom includes the right to be outrageous. Responsibility includes the duty to be fair. News is the history in making. Journalists provide the first draft of the history. Free press, at its best, reveals the truth.” 

In today’s Turkey, those who are in government are trying almost every way to harass and silence independent media and journalists. A multifaceted effort is being conducted with the participation of the president, the government, government officials, judiciary, auditing institutions, pro-government media outlets, etc. World history will surely mark this period in Turkey as the dark age of press freedom.