108 Journalists behind bars, thousands dismissed and unemployed on Journalists' Day in Turkey

Turkey is celebrating the Working Journalists' Day on Jan.10 under widespread political oppression on the media and dramatically increased unemployment in the sector. While 108 journalists are in prisons and 172 journalists are under investigation because of their journalistic work, more than 13 thousand journalists have lost their jobs because of political and economic reasons

Jan.10 has been designated as the Working Journalists' Day when journalists were granted a series of freedoms and rights by the military administration following the military intervention on May 27, 1961.  

According to the World Press Freedom Index in 2019 by Reporters Without Borders(RSF), Turkey placed 157th out of 180 countries. The International Observatory Human Rights (IOHR) indicates that Turkey remains the worst jailer of journalists globally

Turkey's ruling Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) has particularly increased crackdown on the media following the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Scores of journalists have been imprisoned or harassed with legal challenges and more than 200 media outlets have been closed down. Those of critical media outlets which could manage to survive have been forced into self-censorship. 

Two hundred fifty journalists were put on trial in 2019. One hundred thirty-three years of prison sentences and 140000 Turkish Liras($23816) fine has been imposed on the journalists who were tried. Dozens of journalists were attacked, says Gülfem Karataş of the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS) told Ahval.

Amid the widespread political crackdown, journalists in Turkey are also facing a huge unemployment and dismissal crisis. 

Official data of Turkey's Statistical Institute shows that one out of four journalism graduates is unemployed in the country in which thousands of young people graduate from departments of communication every year.

"According to the report we prepared a year after the failed coup attempt in 2016, the unemployment rate among the journalists was 30 per cent, now this rate is much higher. Only in 2019,186 journalists from different media outlets have been fired. Many journalists believe that they no longer can do their job in the country and are planning to go abroad,” Karataş told Ahval. 

A passionate sports reporter, Uğur Köstekçi is one of those young unemployed journalists. Köstekçi began to journalism at an early age and did a lot both at home and abroad to improve himself. However, he is unemployed now even though he applied for a job many times.

"No matter you possess skills; if you do not have influential contacts, it is almost impossible to find a job in the media sector in Turkey," Köstekçi told Ahval.

Under such a massive political and economic pressure, doing journalism is getting harder and harder in Turkey, which forces some to quit journalism and to try their chance in another sector.

Asya İnedi worked 2,5 years for the Kurdish-sensitive Dicle News Agency, which was shut down after the failed coup attempt in 2016. While she was working for another news agency, she had to quit her job because of political oppression on the Kurdish media. Now she is doing agriculture in the Southern city of Adana. 

"I have started to journalism to report the truth to my people. We were under permanent threat and oppression because of our journalistic work. I was taken into custody several times. Our news agency has been shut down, but we did not give up," İnedi told Ahval. However, we have been incapacitated beyond a certain point, she says. 

Fifty-nine years after the coup administration organised the first Working Journalist Day in 1961, working conditions and the rights of journalists in Turkey are getting worse. To be able to overcome all those predicaments; we, as journalists, should unite and increase the low unionisation rates across Turkey, Karataş says.


© Ahval English