‘Turkish government uses ownership laws to pressure media,’ press freedom advocate says

‘Turkish government uses ownership laws to pressure media,’ press freedom advocate says

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Journalists in Turkey are still suffering from imprisonment, Anne Cooper, a former Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) official and free press advocate has said, expressing disappointment that problems similar to those she observed during her visits to Turkey in the 1990s remain unresolved.

“I’ve heard from a number of people now that the government uses media ownership regulations to place pressure on owners of media companies, which in turn pressure the journalists individually,” Cooper told a group of journalists at a meeting hosted by the U.S. embassy on Oct. 4.

Elaborating on her recent meetings with journalists, lawyers and activists in Turkey, Cooper voiced disappointment that journalists were still under government pressure.

She said government officials criticized the media everywhere in the world, including in the U.S., but noted that this went beyond the usual limits in Turkey. “Nobody likes the media very much. That’s common. The problem is when governments go beyond just saying ‘“I didn’t particularly like that article,’” she said.

“It seems to me that, from my discussions in Turkey, this situation is part of greater issue in this country right now, where the government is doing more than just saying they didn’t like that news article. In some cases, they speak directly to media owners with their complaints. I don’t know how this plays out, however, media owners who apparently feel the pressure then turn around and relay that onto the journalist,” Cooper said.

She also suggested that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s remarks about the Gezi Park demonstrations were particularly damaging for Turkey’s image. “Politicians will express their displeasure. But those statements were very strong and not helpful,” Cooper said.

A delegation from the CPJ held talks in Ankara recently, including officials from the Justice Ministry, on the eve of its annual report, which is expected to be released in October, Cooper also said.