Media watchdog lays out plan to boost journalism in Turkey

Turkey is one of the world’s worst media environments and would do well to improve journalism education, offer more internships and create a new award to prepare the industry for a time of greater media freedom, a leading press freedom advocacy group said in a study released on Tuesday.

The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, journalists and media executives, spoke to more than 100 students, reporters, publishers and academics in Turkey and hosted three workshops earlier this year to develop the 20-page report. 

“Turkey presents one of the worst environments for journalists in the world” said the executive summary of the study, titled “It Won’t Always Be Like This: How to Prepare Turkey’s Journalists for a Freer Era” and led by Emre Kızılkaya, managing editor of digital content at Hürriyet newspaper and vice chair of IPI’s Turkish National Committee. 

“Political and economic pressures torment the country’s media, pulling down the quality of journalism and thwarting its remarkable potential to flourish,” according to the report. 

Journalism students were worried about Turkey’s jailing of dozens of critical journalists and complained of an outdated university education model and a lack of opportunities for on-the-job training, according to the report.  

In a report released in February, IPI said Turkey had only extended restrictions on the media since ending, in July 2018, the emergency rule put in place after the 2016 failed coup. That report said more than 150 journalists were behind bars in Turkey and that the closure of 170 media outlets, along with market distortion, economic pressure and friendly media ownership, had given Turkey’s government control of some 95 percent of the country’s media.

In the new IPI study, journalists and publishers said many additional media outlets would shut down before the end of this year, blaming Turkey’s economic troubles. 

“This process has led to growing ‘news deserts’ in the Turkish countryside, as well as in the country’s Kurdish-majority southeastern provinces,” said the report’s executive summary. 

The study makes several recommendations to prepare Turkey’s media ecosystem to provide quality journalism:

  • An open online journalism course in Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic;

  • Community-driven “Creative Cafes” and “Journalism Experience Centres” to promote new media literacy across Turkey;

  • Incubator and accelerator programs to support young reporters; and

  • An internationally sponsored internship programme and a prestigious new journalism award to motivate Turkey’s next-generation journalists.