Turkish independent press starved of advertising revenue – WSJ

A Wall Street Journal profile of one of Turkey’s best-known newspapers has revealed that it, and other independent media outlets, are surviving “on a shoestring” with little revenue from advertising.

“(E)mergency rule, a media crackdown and an antigovernment reputation that has scared away advertisers” has left Cumhuriyet newspaper so lacking in funds that journalists are cleaning the office themselves, David Gauthier-Villars reported in the WSJ article.

The same is true for other independent outlets which “are being financially asphyxiated because advertisers are staying away for fear of alienating the government,” wrote Gauthier-Villars.

One independent news website, Diken, reported that a three-month advertising campaign from a large foreign company was cancelled after 11 days because the company had “received a phone call,” presumably from a government source.

Around 90 percent of Turkey’s media today is controlled by businessmen with strong links to the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, and independent outlets publishing critical articles must contend with an administration that has jailed more journalists than any other country and wields enormous power to make arbitrary arrests under an ongoing state of emergency.

Journalists and staff from Cumhuriyet have faced charges for alleged support of two groups designated as terrorist organisations by the Turkish government - the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Gülen Movement, a religious group blamed for orchestrating the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Fifteen Cumhuriyet staff were handed prison sentences in April, among them the newspaper’s chief executive, Akın Atalay, and editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu. The appeal process for those sentenced is still ongoing.

The government’s pursuit of critical journalists has also spread to foreign publications, with the Wall Street Journal’s Ayla Albayrak sentenced in absentia to 25 months in prison on terrorist propaganda charges for an article published in 2015.