After months of crisis, Turkish media are facing a critical challenge to rebuild editorial independence in the face of a corrupt system of ownership that has sacrificed ethical principles in the newsroom.
A detailed report Censorship in The Park: Turkish Media Trapped by Politics and Corruption by the Ethical Journalism Network published today is an in-depth investigation into the self-censorship and threats to independent journalism during and after sweeping anti-government protests which took place across Turkey last year.
“The report reveals how journalism has worked in the shadow of business and political corruption for years,” said Aidan White, Director of the EJN, a global network of media professional groups. “But it also highlights how some journalists and editors are ready to fight to get journalism back on an ethical track.”
The report follows a mission to Turkey to investigate pressure on media and the victimisation of dissident voices inside journalism after anti-government protests in response to a violent crackdown on protesters opposed to the redevelopment of Gezi Park, in central Istanbul. The report also covers revelations of the impact on media of a recent political corruption scandal.
EJN Director Aidan White and Hosam El Nagar, Operations manager at the Thomson Foundation, in London, talked to a range of editors, journalists and media experts, and found a media ecosystem tarnished by unhealthy dynamics between politics, business, and media interests.
The report points to a lack of transparency in the self-serving ownership structure of mainstream media which it says “play a far more significant role in explaining the failures of mainstream journalism in Turkey than the individual ethics of journalists.”
“As a result of government and business pressures,” concludes the report, “there is a strong culture of self-censorship which creates a distorted information landscape that undermines efforts to strengthen democracy and pluralism at all levels of Turkish society.”
Nevertheless, the report says there is growing resistance within journalism and “fresh determination to confront the Turkish media crisis.”
A meeting of the Ethical Journalism Network leaders in Brussels last week noted the report and pledged to work with media professionals in Turkey in support of a new national dialogue and partnership to strengthen the craft of journalism.
“At stake in all of this is not just the future of independent journalism in Turkey, but the vision of the country as a modern democratic state and its continued development as a prosperous and thriving democracy,” said White.
The Ethical Journalism Network
The Ethical Journalism Network promotes ethics, good governance and independent regulation of media content. The EJN was formed in 2011 as a unifying professional campaign bringing together owners, editors and media staff to strengthen the craft of journalism. It works across all platforms and supports partnership at national and international level between media, journalism support groups and the public.
EJN Communications Officer