CEFTUS online talk: How the Turkish media has been immersed into the quagmire of oppression, self-censorship, corruption and polarisation
Monday, 3 May 2021
Since the end of the Cold War, and the deregulation of the media three decades ago, the story of Turkish journalism – both conventional and online – has been characterised by a pitched battle for freedom, independence and pluralism.
The Turkish media has rocked and reeled from an endless series of restrictive, punitive legislation, trials and imprisonment of journalists, the weakening of union rights, systematic sackings and takeovers by pro-government businessmen. Reporting taboos have returned and the industry is in its worst state ever – the Erdoğan government is now in effective control of more than 95 percent of the sector. While the outlook may be bleak for now, Turkey’s story is filled with lessons for the world on how to counter authoritarian pressure on the media and preserve the free flow of information and good journalism in an age of turmoil.
To mark World Press Freedom Day, Yavuz Baydar, a veteran journalist, will offer his broad perspectives and insights on the factors behind the demise of conventional media, drawing from his latest essay in the German Edition of Le Monde Diplomatique. Merve Tahiroğlu, a top researcher on the digital domain, will bring us up to date on the Erdogan government’s efforts to curb social media and the emergence of alternative media, as she outlined broadly in a blog for the Brookings Insitute. The panel will be moderated by Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia Programme Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Merve Tahiroğlu is Turkey Program Coordinator of Project on Middle East and Democracy (POMED). Prior to joining POMED, Merve was a research analyst at the Washington-based think tank, Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where she focused on Turkey’s domestic politics, foreign policy, and relationship with Washington. Merve has authored several monographs on Turkey and published articles in various outlets such as Foreign Affairs, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Foreign Policy, Politico, NBC, and Huffington Post. Born and raised in Istanbul, Merve earned her Master of Arts in History from Georgetown University and her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Duke University.
Yavuz Baydar is the Editor-in-Chief of Ahval, a trilingual, independent online news and podcast site on Turkey. His opinion articles have appeared in the Guardian, Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, New York Times, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, Le Monde Diplomatique, The Arab Weekly and Index on Censorship.
Baydar was among the co-founders, in 2013, of the independent media platform P24 to monitor the media sector and the state of journalism in his home country.
In 2014, as a Shorenstein Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School of Government, he completed an extensive research paper on self-censorship, state oppression and threats over journalism in Turkey – in the wake of Gezi Park protests.
The extended version of the paper was published in book form in German and Turkish, under the title “Newsroom as an Open-Air Prison: Corruption and Self-Censorship in Turkish Journalism”.
Baydar is the author of the book, “Die Hoffnung Stirbt am Bosporus – Wie die Türkei Freiheit und Demokratie Verspielt” (“The Hope dies at Bosporus: How Turkey Squandered Freedom and Democracy”).
He was delivered the Special Award of the European Press Prize ( EPP), for ‘excellence in journalism’, in 2014, and, in 2018, the ‘ Journalistenpreis’ by the SüdostEuropa Gesellschaft in Munich, Germany.
Turkey’s first Readers’ Editor (News Ombudsman, at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar served the same role later in Sabah daily, until 2014. He was the president of the U.S.-based International Organization of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003-2004.
Gulnoza Said is Europe and Central Asia Program Coordinator of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Said is a journalist and communications professional with over 15 years of experience in New York, Prague, Bratislava, and Tashkent. She has covered issues including politics, media, religion, and human rights with a focus on Central Asia, Russia, and Turkey.