Gov’t control of media increases mistrust, pushes Turks to online sources - CAP report

Turkey’s increasing mistrust towards Turkish news outlets and overreliance on specific sources of information are two trends that have undercut the state’s years-long efforts to control the media, according to a report published on Wednesday by the Center for American Progress (CAP).

“Pervasive mistrust of the media appears to be a driving force behind rapid changes in the ways that Turks get their news,” said writers Andrew O’Donohue, research fellow at the Istanbul Policy Center; Max Hoffman, associate director of National Security and International Policy at CAP; and Alan Makovsky, a senior fellow for National Security and International Policy at CAP, said. 

The overall lack of trust in news outlets is pushing citizens toward “online media sources that tend to be more independent of the government,” according to the report.

Fifty-six percent of Turks believe the media in the country is government-controlled and 70 percent say they do not trust its news outlets, the report stated, citing a 2018 CAP survey. 

In the aftermath of the July 2016 coup attempt, the government of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan launched an unprecedented crackdown on opposition figures and critics, including news outlets. More than 200 media outlets have been closed down and the few remaining critical media outlets have been coerced into self-censorship. 

Turkey is ranked the highest jailer of journalists in the world, after China, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

The 2018 CAP survey showed that among supporters of Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), almost one-third agreed that the Turkish media tends to be under government control.

Statistical analysis of data from the CAP report showed that Turks who believed media in the country was untruthful turn off their TVs and rely on social media as a news medium.

“The likelihood of relying on television for news is 79 percent for Turks who trust the media, but 66 percent for those sceptical of the media,’’ according to the report.

The article pointed to increasing fragmentation in news consumption patterns among the public, sparked by “deepening partisan cleavages, widening generational divides and the surprising staying power of local newspapers.’’

The most worrisome aspect of Turkey’s fragmented media landscape is the lack of a single major news outlet, which can stand above the partisan factions, it said.

The report cited academic research that concluded Turkey’s media trends will exacerbate already high levels of misinformation, thereby “intensifying partisan polarization, eroding political accountability, and worsening crises such as the coronavirus outbreak.”