Turkey: Most media back Erdoğan

Until just a few years ago Turkey had a dynamic media landscape that offered space to many different voices. But this diversity is disappearing. Through a combination of mass arrests, bans against newspapers and broadcasters and economic pressure, Ankara has brought most of the country's media into line with the government.

Türk asıllı Alman gazeteci Deniz Yücel, Şubat 2017’den bu yana Türkiye’de hapis yatıyor  150 Türkiyeli gazeteciyle beraber. Berlin’de insanlar Yücel’in serbest bırakılması için gösteriler düzenliyor. (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Türk asıllı Alman gazeteci Deniz Yücel, Şubat 2017’den bu yana Türkiye’de hapis yatıyor 150 Türkiyeli gazeteciyle beraber. Berlin’de insanlar Yücel’in serbest bırakılması için gösteriler düzenliyor. (© picture-alliance/dpa)
Cumhuriyet is one of the last bastions of oppositional reporting in Turkey, but it, too, came under attack at the beginning of November 2016 when a dozen or so employees at the prestigious daily were arrested, including its editor-in-chief and its publisher. The state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, marked another milestone in the AKP government's protracted crackdown on critical media. Within the space of four months more than 176 media outlets had been banned by decree and more than 144 journalists arrested. Most face accusations of spreading terrorist propaganda or supporting either the Gülen movement or the Kurdish PKK, in many cases without any investigation or trial having taken place.

Another instrument of censorship are the news blackouts the government uses to prevent media from reporting on politically sensitive issues. Critical media are also bombarded with fines and their advertising clients intimidated. Self-censorship is widespread among journalists and deeply entrenched in the economic structure of the Turkish media.

Around 70 percent of the Turkish media are owned by a few large media groups, most of them in the hands of companies that are also active in non-media sectors such as construction, finance or energy. Information that runs counter to their business interests is often suppressed, and in order to win lucrative government contracts they also prevent government-critical reporting. The largest media group Doğan, which owns the daily Hürriyet and the television channel CNN Türk, was ordered to pay billions in fines for tax evasion in 2009. Up to that point its coverage had been highly critical of the government, but since then its commentaries have been toned down.

Alongside the established media groups, Islamic-conservative companies with close ties to the government have increasingly been buying up major media organs since 2010. The high-circulation Sabah and the television channel ATV have thus become government mouthpieces.

The main medium is television: Turks watch an average of five hours of television a day. But there is almost no critical reporting on television any more. The tone is generally divisive, often with nationalist overtones. Only 20 percent of the population reads a newspaper.

Independent media have a hard time and can only survive by pursuing alternative business models. Here the Internet is of growing importance. Web portals like T24 or Diken report on issues about which the established media remain silent. Social media has a very high status and is actively used by 90 percent of Internet users. Few countries use Facebook and Twitter more extensively than Turkey. It is here that most of the government-critical reporting occurs. However, the government is also cracking down on online reporting by blocking Internet access and filing hundreds of complaints against commentators.

Press Freedom Rating:
Reporters Without Borders: 155th place (2017)
Freedom House: 156th place - status: not free (2016)

Updated: May 2017
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