euro|topics visits newsrooms in Turkey
Our euro|topics team traveled to Turkey to meet with journalists and visit newsrooms. We talked to Judit Judith Fiebelkorn about the situation for journalists in Turkey
What did journalists tell you about the situation for journalists in the country?
Judith Fiebelkorn: Well, we visited quite different editorial offices there, from the AKP propaganda press to opposition media, which are under a lot of pressure. And yes, we have heard very different narratives: The government-loyal media attached great importance to explain us that foreign media, and especially German media, do not understand Turkey and treat it unfairly. While this is not a new argument it was very interesting to see how they talk about it and what narratives they develop. Opposition media, of course, have a completely different view on this.
Yes, there are restrictions on freedom of the press – but another challenge for journalists is to adapt to the rapidly changing political agenda in Turkey. The 2016 coup attempt is only the most drastic example here.
RSF describes Turkey's media as "not free", and especially since 2016 media freedom has deteriorated and many journalists have been imprisoned. How do the newsrooms you visited work under these circumstances?
Judith Fiebelkorn: For example, we experienced a very depressing atmosphere at Hürriyet. Last year, the newspaper was sold to a holding close to the government. But even before it had already changed its focus considerably which resulted in resignations of journalists. However, a few days before our visit, another 45 editors were sacked in one fell swoop. While at work, letters arrived at their home addresses informing them about their dismissal. Some only learnt about it because their partners called them at the editorial office. So indeed, the atmosphere there was similar to that at a funeral, everyone was in shock. Under such circumstances, of course, you can't work properly as a journalist. But we also visited very small, independent editorial offices that give their best despite the adverse circumstances. But they are all under massive pressure.
In this complex media scene, what could be the role of a project like euro|topics?
Judith Fiebelkorn: We have had our Turkish language version for three years now and reach quite a lot of people in Turkey especially via social media. We notice that they are not so interested in what is going on in the European Parliament or in the Commission. Instead, they want to read debates that are surprising, in which they learn something new about other European countries: that Danish couples can divorce online, how the customs around dying change or that in Finland the tax data of all citizens should no longer be publicly accessible in the future. And of course, they are interested in what the European media say about Turkey. I think especially in such a difficult media landscape as Turkey, our press review can provide valuable impressions from outside. The journalists with whom we spoke in Istanbul also confirmed this.
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