Jan 30 2018

Turkish media under more pressure than ever - newspaper

Turkey now has several mechanisms acting full-time against opposition news media and making it almost impossible to operate normally, left-wing newspaper Evrensel said.

“The government says, ‘You’ll either not write the news, or you’ll write it as I say,’ the newspaper said. “They want to put pressure on those newspapers that are left to silence them.”

There are now several courts that are essentially spending all their time prosecuting opposition media, said the newspaper, which now faces 30 cases.

“The reasons for the cases are sometimes insulting the president, sometimes violation of the right to privacy and sometimes terror group propaganda,” the newspaper said. “They encompass news, columns, comment … Our reporters and writers are detained and arrested, and face dozens of years’ worth of prison time. In total, our newspaper is being sued for 500,000 lira ($132,000).”

Since Turkey began its operation in the northern Syrian district of Afrin, repression has increased, Evrensel said.

“Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım forced a 15-item warning list into the hands of media executives describing how their newspapers and television channels are to make the news,” it said.

Internet sites were blocked for their Afrin news, and there have been dozens of people detained and a few arrested by the courts for sharing news about Afrin, the newspaper said.

Meanwhile, media outlets are spending more of their time at courthouses every month reporting on the trials, leaving less time for investigative reporting, it said.

“After every news item critical of the government, it rains online access bans and cases for compensation,” it quoted the newspaper’s lawyer Devrim Avcı as saying.

Moreover, Avcı said, pro-government figures had found a new way to use Turkey’s broken justice system to confound the press.

“For example, you publish a news item, a critical news item that does not violate anyone’s privacy or insult anyone. It contains up-to-date and correct information,” he said.

“The person or institution the news is about applies to the court, and if it is pro-government, the court will give a decision that moment. You are forced to publish a correction in relation to that news item. The court does not allow debate on the content in the court, there’s no good from it not insulting anyone, there’s public benefit from its publication, but despite this you are forced to print an answer and a correction,” he said.

“Where does our right to publish news as journalists begin? Is there any limit to this?”