Was it really a surprise?
Turkey ranks low on all international lists in regards to rights, liberties and freedoms while also boasting first place in terms of the highest number of newsmen behind bars. The country is situated in a critical region and, of course, Turkish executives must have every right to expect other countries to understand its peculiar conditions. After all, is Turkey not the country that welcomed more Syrian refugees in one week than the combined total of all European countries since Syria’s civil war started?
Alas, an insufficient number of countries believed Turkey deserved a special place in international diplomacy via non-permanent membership on the United Nations Security Council. Whatever effort is made to conceal the fact that the world saw, or at least partly saw, a snapshot of Turkey and decided that such a country, at least for now, should not sit on the U.N. Security Council, the bitter reality is there. Was this a surprise defeat for Turkey? For some people high up in the Turkish administrative ladder, most probably. Altitude perhaps sometimes creates such alienation from reality.
Talking with a group of young journalists and university students in the Black Sea city of Trabzon within the “basics of journalism lectures” of the EU-funded Press for Freedom Project (PfP) of the Association of Journalists, it was rather difficult to answer questions on why some journalists were so accustomed to being censored that they might not even react to it.
According to the September report of the PfP, journalists, writers and intellectuals in Turkey have been the targets of death threats, intimidation, humiliation and character assassination campaigns amid deepening concerns over the freedom of press, freedom of expression and human rights.
If in the first half of this year 981 journalists were fired by their workplaces and 56 media personnel were forced to resign by their employers, it must be obvious that there is an acute problem in this country irrespective of how many times and at what level assurances were made to promote freedom of expression.
It is a very sad reality that except for the semi-official Anatolia News Agency – and even there efforts are underway to get rid of the labor union – and some small media outlets, trade unions are de facto barred from the Turkish media. The absence of a labor union in the sector means an absence of job security. Without job security, it becomes all the easier to develop an allegiant media or to force news people who have so far somehow managed to follow an independent line, to become inured or succumb to media censorship just to keep their job.
The absence of job security or insecure employment conditions might be considered the leading reason why stories which are evidently well-researched and well-written are produced by some Turkish colleagues for foreign media establishments. Can anyone claim that those Turkish journalists are better journalists than others? The difference is in their liberty provided by the fact that no one can call their boss, send the taxman to the boss or engage in some sort of character assassination against the reporter.
While Turkish reporters work under the constant risk of losing their contracts, a tendency is increasing among the ruling elite, particularly high up in the hierarchy, to blame foreign media representatives for all misgivings.
There is also a growing tendency to lambaste foreign media organizations if they “dare” to report something that irks Turkey’s all-powerful. Most recently, the New York Times was placed in the bull’s eye when its Turkish correspondent dared to report some were “systematically” joining the gang.
Can this snapshot presented so far be one of a country that deserves to join the U.N.’s top body? Was losing the vote really a surprise?