RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA
RESTRICTIONS ON MEDIA
“Turkey is a wide-open Pandora’s box with a broken lock”(Balcı, 2007). In our country, citizens are always used to experiencing a surprise. The things, which are perceived surprising and abnormal in developed countries, may be considered normal in Turkey. For instance, the Turkish public got used to restrictions on media. The media’s responsibility to reflect the truths to the public is hindered. Therefore, Turkey can not reach the level of freedom of media in developed countries due to several restrictions on media. One of the reasons why democracy in Turkey is 100 years behind the democracy in Europe (Göksel, 2007) is constraints on independence and freedom of media. The main constraint on freedom of Turkish media is the pressure of media proprietors and institutions.
One way for restricting media is that the behaviour of media proprietors often limits columnists’ writings for their economic interests. Writers should be more conscious about the truths; however they are forced to serve the interests of capitalists. For example, employers make the writers write against rival media groups. As a result, the struggle among media bosses disguise as the struggle between columnists (Korkut, 2007). Columnists are also forced not to interfere with the government. Because proprietors have the fear of losing economic interests, they do not want to challenge with the government. Therefore, columnists can not freely criticize the government. On the contrary, they may unwillingly support the government’s performance. Moreover, media bosses exert pressure on journalists for their political interests. For example, there is a phenomenon in our country named “Cem Uzan”. He used his media corporations as a tool for his propaganda during the 2002 elections. The writers or news agencies in his media group were obliged to propagandize Uzan’s unfulfilled promises. Columnists were writing as if the only political party had been the Uzan’s party at that time. For example, Can Ataklı, the former editor of daily newspaper, Star, could not write anything unless he got Uzan’s consent. Ataklı is recently working in a daily newspaper, Vatan, as columnist and he began to write anti-Uzan news (Eğin, 2006). Therefore, it can be easily understood that when media employees change their media group, they are more likely to change their behaviour. Maybe his new patron forces him to write against Uzan. In conclusion, media employees in Turkey always suffer from being under pressure of media proprietors.
A second major way for restricting media in Turkey is the prohibitions of institutions. Firstly, Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Board (RTÜK), and Turkish Telecom prohibit some programs and websites. For example, talk shows dealing with women’s issues were cancelled because they were discussing the issues of family, children and, marital relations (Karaca in Schleifer, 2005). However Yigal Schleifer, a reporter of Jewish Telegraphic Agency, is against the cancellation of these TV shows. In her article, Schleifer states that
in a country where violence against women is widespread and services to help
them few, women’s rights activists say the shows, despite their sensationalism, are
being criticized because they spotlight the abuse and other difficulties faced by
women that largely ignore (2005).
Thus, ignorance of women could be the justification why women’s TV shows should not be cancelled. Similarly, a TV serial named “Kurtlar Vadisi-Terör” was cancelled by RTÜK, although the majority of the people in Turkey were opposed to this cancellation. The preceding two examples which were about the cancellation of a talk show and a TV serial were internal problems of Turkey. However, the blockage on “Youtube”, a video sharing site, made an enormous impact in the international arena. For example, in his article Thomas Crompton from the International Herald Tribune argues that “the abrupt decision to block access to Youtube would give ammunition to thsoe[sic] who argue that the avowed secularism of Turkey does not sufficiently safeguard free-speech” (2007). For this reason, the best punishment can be ignoring something. Beside, RTUK and Turkish Telecom which regulate media, other institutions also might influence the media. For example, The Turkish Military implements accreditation on publishing and broadcasting. Because of this, some press and TV channels which make news against military are never invited to press conferences. This situation causes the media to be classified as proponents and opponents of the Turkish Military. Accreditation is a dangerous implementation. Because this functioning prevents the press from working freely, it has terrible consequences for democratic development (Ipekçi in Önderoğlu, 2007). Nowadays, people in Turkey frequently hear the word “andıç” which the dictionary gives a definition as follows: a note which is written for warning. But, specifically, the word is known as the Turkish Military’s categorization of journalists who are supporters or opponents of the military. In other words, it is a document that who may or may not get the accreditation. Therefore, “andıç” intimidates journalists not to criticize the military. Otherwise, they would be added the list of “andıç” (Sarıibrahimoğlu in Önderoğlu, 2007). In short, the Turkish media is exposed to the interventions of various institutions.
To sum up, the Turkish media is exposed to restrictions of media proprietors and institutions. And these restrictions prevent Turkey from being a more democratic country. If citizens, media employees, and journalists want a modern country, they have to resist the pressure of media patrons and institutions, and they have to defend the freedom of media.