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- Author: Ceren Sözeri, Dilek Kurban
- Publication Date: 12-2011
- Content Type: Special Report
- Institution: Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV)
- Abstract: Media policy in Turkey has shaped the media-state relationship since the establishment of the first newspaper in the late Ottoman period. While regulations were often employed as an effective disciplinary tool against the press in processes of state formation and modernization, opponent journalists have constantly been suppressed by state and non-state actors who claimed to act in the name of ‘state interests’. The coup d’état in 1980 and the concomitant economic liberalisation changed the ownership structure of the media sector with the entry of new investors. Following the abolishment of state monopoly on broadcasting in the 1990s, big conglomerates expanding through vertical and horizontal mergers have dominated all fields of the media. The high concentrated market structure in the media was made possible due to the inadequacy of legal barriers to crossmergers, as well as the lack of measures that would prevent media conglomerates from participating in public tenders in other sectors of the economy. The shortcomings of the regulatory framework to promote press freedom and diversity in the media has encouraged big corporations to regard themselves as legitimate political actors that can bargain with the government. Media ownership was restructured following the economic crisis in 2001. Big media groups, which had investments in the financial and banking sectors, were particularly affected by the crisis; some being completely wiped out of the market, while others were seized by the state. Shortly after the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi- AK Parti) came to power in 2002, the mainstream media was reconfigured ideologically as either ‘opponent’ or ‘proponent’ to the government. Notwithstanding the limited positive effects of the EU accession process on media freedom, there are dozens of ECtHR judgments regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the press waiting to be executed by the Turkish state. Journalists who are powerless vis-à-vis the owners and political power are particularly affected by the political polarisation in the media. The structural obstacles to unionization and the lack of solidarity in the profession lead to labour exploitation, low quality content and violations of media ethics. The lack of a strong pro-democracy social movement; the ideological conservatism of the judiciary; the institutional weakness of the parliament; and the lack of democracy within political parties render the government – and future governments – too powerful vis-à-vis the society and the media. On a positive note, however, there is a growing awareness on the need for social monitoring of the media. In the absence of a widely accepted and established selfregulatory framework, various non-governmental organizations and activist groups started to watch the media in order to expand the culture of diversity and to reduce discrimination, racism and hate speech. MEDIADEM is a European research project which seeks to understand and explain the factors that promote or conversely prevent the development of policies supporting free and independent media.
- Topic: Democracy, Media, Freedom of Expression, Journalism
- Political Geography: Turkey, Middle East, European Union