Serbestiyet - 27 Ekim 2014
What is a newspaper reporter? In the first place he is the representative of the periodical press; and as a representative of the press (the sixth continent of the world) he receives five kopecks per line, or seven, or ten, sometimes fifteen or twenty, as he conveys in his lines everything that has happened and much that has not. If you were to put together the newspaper lines of any representative of the press, then the single line compiled from all the lines would encircle the entire globe with what has happened and what has happened and what has not. Such are the venerable qualities of the majority of contributors to extreme right-wing, right-wing, centre, moderate liberal, and finally revolutionary newspapers, together with the calculation of their quantity and quality…”
– Petersburg, Ch. 2, “The Chronicle of Events,” Andrei Bely
Hand-wringing over the dire oppression that the Turkish press is subject to has been a constant feature of international press coverage of Turkey for seven or eight years now. After the recent kerfuffles that some international publications have gotten caught up in over their Turkish coverage, one might have experienced heightened curiosity about exactly what the Turkish Fourth Estate’s condition is. Unfortunately for those of you experiencing angst over Turkish journalism’s plight, the reality is that an objective, professional, and trustable Turkish press does not exist. That’s right; the idea of an objective Turkish press is a myth, a fantasy, and in the realm of unicorns and leprechauns.
Sorry to disappoint you though: the absence of an objective Turkish press has little to do with any “oppression” coming from the AKP (Justice and Development Party) government. True enough, Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan has apparently put pressure on some newspapers or journalists, and gotten some people fired, which was obviously not the right thing to do. But how does that justify claims of “creeping dictatorship”?
In fact, the Turkish press is not under threat from the government, and is not censored. Just the opposite: the Turkish press is a daily anarchic knock-down, drag-out free-for-all. Literally. There are dozens of Turkish dailies, both national and local, and more than 200 TV channels. There are no apparent ethical or professional standards. Stories are created to suit the political tastes of the backers for any particular press outlet. If no sufficient rumors or stories exist, they are created, and in order to damage whoever the perceived enemies are. Nearly everyone owes allegiance (and their jobs) to someone. The journalistic unions are a joke, compromised by either ties to the state/military or to rigid leftist ideology. One prominent Turkish journalists’ group, the Gazeteciler ve Yazarlar Vakfı (the Journalists’ and Writers’ Foundation, sponsors of the Abant Platform) is directly linked to Fethullah Gülen. For decades, the “secular” newspapers have featured scantily clad women on their back page. And every newspaper, TV channel, and (almost all – there are a few exceptions) media figure can be neatly identified as either pro- or anti-AKP.