Amid economic downfall, Turkish newspapers face life and death struggle

As the Turkish Lira loses value and the price of paper and printing increase, the Turkish press is struggling to survive.

Duvar English

In the midst of a historic economic crisis in Turkey, Turkish newspapers and printed outlets are struggling. As the Turkish lira plummets and the price of paper increases, many of these papers are trying to stay alive, the daily BirGün reported on Dec. 9. 

Turkish press was already under threat from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Hundreds of papers have been closed in the five years since the coup attempt of July 2016, and many more have faced extreme censorship. 

Now, added to that is an extreme increase in the cost of production. Paper is currently priced at nearly $1000 a ton; just two months ago, it was $600 a ton. Plus, in November, the lira lost over 30% of its value against the dollar. Ink, stamps, and labor have also all increased by over 300%. 

As a result of these increases, papers have been forced to rapidly cut the size of their publications, reduce the number of colored pages, and end the circulation of some supplements. Even so, newspaper editors and owners say they’re struggling.

BirGün’s owner İbrahim Aydın said that because Turkey imports much of its printing materials, the industry is in dire straits as a result of the drop in the value of the lira. Newspapers are the voice of society, he said, but currently, they exist only at the whim of the market. 

“As long as these conditions continue, it will be increasingly difficult for the voice of the press to be heard,” he said, “Journalism in Turkey cannot be left entirely to the ruthless conditions of the market.”

Osman Özer, Member of the Board of Directors of daily Cumhuriyet, seconded this. He said that production costs have increased for his paper by at least 150% and that those costs continue to rise. Despite these increases, they do not receive support to continue printing. His paper has had to cut its pages, reduce supplements, and will consider staff cuts as a last resort.

“National and local newspapers should act together. The state needs to increase support directly, or indirectly with paper. The domestic paper production market should also be diversified,” Özer said.

Fatih Polat, the editor of daily Evrensel, said opposition papers are also under the increased threat posed by the Press Advertisement Agency, which regulates how and when papers can commission advertisement. He said that, at the whim of the agency, his paper received a no-advertisement penalty of 103 days, which was a blow to the publication. This indirect censorship, combined with the privatization of the paper and printing industries initiated under the AKP government, has put his paper in a desperate situation.

Yeni Yaşam Newspaper Administrative Affairs Officer Mehmet Şahin says that there is no end in sight to this crisis. 

"There aren't any policies that would put an end to this deterioration. The government insists on wrong policies," he said. 

Hakan Güldağ, chairman of Dünya, said that taxes on paper need to be reduced and studies need to be carried out on how to decrease the cost of these supplies. Options for domestic printing and production also need to be explored. Otherwise, newspapers and publications may be forced to start cutting staff.

“Press and media bodies, which are already working with damage to their operations, are now facing even greater damage. Journalists may also have to be let go,” he said.