The Censorship Of Turkish Media, Is The Press Across Europe Under Attack?
Two major Turkish media outlets are bought by a pro-government group and Turkey President Erdogan detains hundreds of journalists all while other European countries face similar threats to press freedom.
Freedom of the press faces challenges in Turkey stemming from arrests of journalists to the consolidation of Turkish media. Just last Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a ruling that the Turkish government had violated the rights of two journalists arrested in 2016 for alleged terrorist ties allegation.
Turkey detained Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Atlan along with hundreds of other journalists after the aborted coup attempt to oust Turkey president Erdogan in July 2016. The ECHR verdict is the first ruling on the detention of the journalists by Turkey.
According to the ECHR, Turkey is failing in a widespread manner to fairly apply their anti-terrorism laws. The court also declared that Alpay’s pre-trial detention”could not be regarded as lawful.” The judge told the Turkish government to award compensation to each journalist in the amount of 21,500 euros.
Erdogan has justified the arrest of hundreds of journalist using the 2016 failed coup attempt as grounds for detention. Many in the outside world see the Erdogan administration as using the coup as an excuse to arrest anyone outspokenly critical of the Erdogan regime or anyone who expresses sympathy for Kurdish population, which is fighting for
According to UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the Erdogan administration detained around 160,000 people during an 18-month state of emergency.
A Pro-government Company Buys Two Major Turkish Media Outlets
Many feel media freedom in Turkey is worsening after a firm believed to be a pro-government company took over the country’s most reputable newspaper “Hurriyet” and TV station CNN Turk. The Dogan Group had owned both media outlets but sold them to Demirören Holdings which has close ties to the Erdogan government.
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) raised concern over the purchase of Hurriyet and CNN Turk by Demirören Holdings. RWB Executive Director for Germany Christian Mihr called the sale a dark day for freedom of the press.
Previously, the pro-government firm bought two independent papers-Vatan and Milliyet. After the purchase, many felt they transformed from a critical voice to a strong supporter of the government.
Is The Turkish Media Alone In Facing Censorship Challenges?
Journalists worldwide showed solidarity over the murder of Slovakian investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who was shot dead at his home with his girlfriend, Martina Kusnirova in late February. The Slovak police believe his death is related to his work investigating political corruption. Kuciak discovered ties between the Italian mafia and Slovakia’s then President Robert Fico and his Smer Socialist Democratic Party.
Kuciak’s death sparked anger nationwide and triggered a political crisis. Robert Fico finally stepped down as the country’s prime minister, replaced by his deputy Peter Pellegrini. Fico’s resignation fails to satisfy Slovakians because they are now demanding a snap election.
Less than two weeks after Kuciak’s death, thousands of Czechs took to the streets protesting the country’s recently re-elected President, Milos Zeman, and his public criticism of independent media.
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) recorded 149 violations of press freedom in 32 nations across south, central, and eastern Europe in 2017. The number of attacks against journalists and media was actually higher at 611. The real figure may be even higher as SEEMO statistics exclude trickier statistics to catch such as blackmail, court cases against journalists, and pressure faced by reporters and editors from politicians or media owners.
Can the European Union or any European body step in to help protect the freedom of the press?