On Friday, Flash TV, one of the few impartial media channels that survived political oppression, went off the air, publishing a statement on its website saying, “We are going off the air for a while due to the long-standing crackdown that has now become unbearable.”
The TV administration claimed that unlawful practices and administrative, financial, and political pressure by the Turkish government are the reasons behind the shutdown decision. Independent media in Turkey has been facing immense financial and political pressure and have even faced criminal prosecutions.
“Independent media is as important as an independent judiciary,” TV officials said in the statement.
“Our only fault is objectivity”
On Thursday night, Gokhan Taskin, Flash TV anchorman, ended his last news bulletin saying, “Our only fault is objectivity.”
Government pressure on Turkish press is nothing new, but silencing the media has been unrelenting since the failed coup attempt in 2016.
The International Press Institute (IPI) reported that 170 media outlets and printing offices in Turkey have been forced to close since 2016. Ranked 157th out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, Turkey has been getting worse in its ranking with every passing year.
According to Emma Sinclair-Webb, Turkey Director for Human Rights Watch, Turkey is the world leader in jailing journalists, and according to the #FreeTurkeyJournalists platform, 141 journalists are imprisoned in Turkey, some of them have been in prison for years.
According to the IPI report, 90% of Turkey’s media are currently under government influence. Social media and internet journalism in Turkey have become an emerging powerful alternative to mainstream media, characterized as mostly pro-government.
However, the “Freedom on the Net” report indicates that freedom on the Internet in Turkey is also suffering due to increased self-censorship, a growing list of blocked news sites, and arrests of those who criticize the administration or the President.
“I Subscribe” initiative for independent media
There are emerging initiatives aimed at helping independent media to survive financially in Turkey. One of them is the “I Subscribe” campaign, which encourages readers to pay subscriptions to benefit independent newspapers launched by press freedom organizations.
The first round of the “I Subscribe” campaign featured the daily Cumhuriyet, and the second round, which started on March 1, 2019, features the daily newspapers Evrensel and BirGün.
Caroline Stockford, IPI Turkey Advocacy Coordinator, said “Purchasing a subscription is a practical and constructive way for the international public to directly support independent newspapers that are struggling to survive in Turkey. It is vital that newspapers can survive financially. Subscribing to these newspapers will help them to continue publishing independent, critical journalism.”