Nov 11 2017

Filling the gap of media bans and self-censorship

The German newspaper Süeddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) featured Ahval in a story about media freedom in Turkey.

Entitled "Die Lücke im Land" ("The gap in the country") the piece describes how the takeover of important media outlets by businessmen close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the jailing of the independent journalists have stifled free expression in the country:

Die Lücke im Land, Süeddeutsche Zeitung, 11 November 2017.
Die Lücke im Land, Süeddeutsche Zeitung, 11 November 2017.

SZ senior reporter and former Istanbul correspondent Christiane Schlötzer picked the Ahval story How did the Turkish media (not) cover the Paradise Papers?, to explain what she means by the gap.

The 13.7 million documents, originally obtained by the SZ and was published in coordination of The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), revealed many stories on how the world's rich and powerful evaded paying taxes by using offshore accounts.

Turkey's leadership was not spared, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım's sons, and Erdoğan's son-in-law Energy Minister Berat Albayrak were all involved. But only Cumhuriyet – with a national daily circulation of only 35,500 – dared publish the stories.

Ahval published these stories as well, citing Cumhuriyet and other member outlets in the ICIJ, in three different languages: English, Turkish and Arabic.

SZ quotes Ahval's editor-in-chief Yavuz Baydar as saying that they have "complete journalistic freedom", a rarity in a media environment in which the remaining brave independent media outlets have to carefully watch everything they say lest the government take offence.

But Schlötzer concludes that speaking the language of many of the readers of the pro-government press may not be enough to bridge the gap. Citing another Ahval story on Germany's foreign minister candidate Cem Özdemir, she notes:

"Dialogue is not yet guaranteed, because the problem is not the language. It's the values."