The Digital News Report for 2019 reveals that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has tightened its grip on Turkish media over the past year.
The Deutsche Welle’s (DW) Turkish service, citing a Reuters Institute report on Wednesday that the government has strengthened its control of the media since last year with the sale of a leading media group to a pro-government businessman.
The report was referring to the sale of all the media outlets of Turkish media mogul Aydin Dogan to Demiroren Holding, a pro-government conglomerate with interests primarily in energy and construction.
“Several experienced journalists were fired, editors were changed and the coverage became pro-government in all media outlets in the group. Although Dogan Group’s capability for criticizing Erdogan’s government had already eroded before the sale, coverage has become more explicitly supportive of government lines,” the report said.
According to the report, the second most important development was the ending of the print edition of Vatan and Haberturk, one of Turkey’s largest-circulation newspapers because of a decline in sales and rising costs in mid-2018.
The report also said that other newspapers have either reduced pagination or axed their Sunday supplements with some local dailies also ending print editions.
“The circulation of Turkish newspapers and their share of advertising revenues have been declining steadily, while printing costs have also risen as a weak Turkish lira makes imported newsprint more expensive,” the institute explained.
Stating that the annual total circulation of printed newspapers and magazines fell 33% from 2013 to 2017, the institute warned that it would be no surprise if other newspapers were to closed in the near future.
Although international brands such as BBC Turkish, DW, Euronews, and Russian-backed Sputnik provide other perspectives in the country, they have not managed to achieve significant reach due to having limited staff to generate original content, the report highlighted.
While social and digital media are an important outlet for alternative and critical perspectives in Turkey, television remains the most important source of news, the report also emphasized.
The critical Fox TV News was on top of the list of most popular television, radio and print media outlets in Turkey with 58 percent, followed by pro-government CNN Turk and NTV with 44 and 38 percents respectively.
The survey’s list of most popular online media outlets includes Sozcu and Cumhuriyet dailies as the only two outlets that are critical of the AKP government this year, where social media and smaller Internet sites have become the main platforms for alternative news.
“The opposition parties, for example, primarily used social media to reach the electorate during the presidential election campaign in 2018 and municipal elections this year,” the report underlined.
The institute also found that 60 percent of people in Turkey share news via messaging or email, 45 percent comment on the news on social media or websites and 34 percent pay for online news.
While 49 percent of Youtube users use the social media outlet for news and politics, this figure drops to 47 percent with Facebook users and 33 percent among the users of WhatsApp, Instagram, and Twitter.
“The high levels of political and media polarisation in Turkey have been a fertile breeding ground for misinformation over the last few years,” the report also said.
This led to the emergence of a few credible fact-checking organizations such as Teyit.org.
Turkey is among the countries where news avoidance is highest with 55 percent, also due to polarization and increasing misinformation and low trust in media, according to the report.
Up to 90 percent of the Turkish media by audience share is owned by businessmen or companies with close ties to Erdogan’s AKP government.