Turkey’s dissident journalists use alternative platforms to avoid government restrictions

Turkey’s dissident journalists have resorted to alternative channels of reporting in order to avoid media restrictions by the government, according to a recently released Global Press Freedom report.

The report, titled “Freedom and the Media 2019: A Downward Spiral” – produced by Freedom House, which is a US government-funded non-governmental organization (NGO) that conducts research and advocacy on democracy, political freedom, and human rights – showed that Turkey was ranked only “partly free” in terms of press freedom, and that only 25 percent of Turkey’s population trusts Turkish media.

In the report, released on June 5, countries are rated on a scale of 0 to 4 in terms of press freedom. The most controlled media rates the lowest (0), and the least controlled, free press rates the highest (4). Turkey received a rating of 1 on the scale, suggesting that the Turkish media is only partly free.

Turkey has an aggregate score of 31 out of 100, ranking the same as Zimbabwe and Nagorno-Karabakh, but lower than Mauritania, Nicaragua, and Iraq, according to Freedom House’s “Freedom in World Countries” index.

The recent Freedom House report claims that press freedom has been deteriorating worldwide over the past decade, with new forms of repression taking hold in both democratic and authoritarian states.

“In some fragile democracies, antidemocratic leaders are using a variety of financial and legal tools to silence independent journalists and to support biased outlets,” the Washington-based NGO noted.

To counteract this, the internet has offered alternative media opportunities, such as blogs, online news outlets, and social media platforms to avoid government intervention, the report claimed, referring to Turkey.

Many journalists have been reporting online since the failed coup attempt in Turkey in 2016, which caused the closure of almost 150 news outlets and resulted in hundreds of trials with accusations of “supporting terrorism.”

The report also mentioned journalist Unsal Unlu and his home-office podcasts, Dokuz8 news portal and its new model tests of digital-first reporting, and Yavuz Baydar and Can Dundar with their new platforms, Ahval and Ozguruz, which broadcast independent news from overseas.

Internet users are reportedly skirting government censorship by accessing coverage on those platforms, thanks to social media services and virtual private networks (VPNs).

Several major international platforms, such as the YouTube channel of Turkish Medyascope, are also serving as an important buffer against government censorial tendencies.

Another Turkey-related news reporting method, which was developed by traditional media players in western democracies, was mentioned in the report. Public broadcasters from France (F24), Germany (DW), the United Kingdom (BBC), and the US (VOA) have come together to launch a Turkish-language news channel, +90, in a bid to “provide independent and accurate information that promotes free speech and a multitude of perspectives on current affairs,” airing exclusively on YouTube.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is, allegedly, irked over the channel’s coverage, as they now need to motivate and persuade YouTube to censor the US government-funded news service.

Key Findings of “Freedom and the Media 2019: A Downward Spiral” report
Drafted by Sarah Repucci, Senior Director for Research and Analysis, the report has some key findings as follows:

– Freedom of the media has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade.

– In some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen concerted attempts to throttle the independence of the media sector.

– While the threats to global media freedom are real and concerning, their impact on the state of democracy is what makes them truly dangerous.

– Experience has shown, however, that press freedom can rebound from even lengthy stints of repression when given the opportunity. The basic desire for democratic liberties, including access to honest and fact-based journalism, can never be extinguished.

US-Turkey debate press freedom on World Press Freedom Day

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