On the occasion of January 10 Working Journalists’ Day, the Journalists’ Union of Turkey (TGS) released a statement showing the dire conditions the journalists work under in the country.
The TGS’s statement released on Twitter said that 250 journalists went on trial in the country in 2019 and the ones whose trial processes came to an end received 133 years imprisonment in total. It further said that 91 journalists are currently jailed.
“10 journalists have been attacked on the street [in 2019]; the number of unemployed journalists went up to 11,157,” the TGS further noted.
One out of every four journalists unemployed
The TGS had also released a statement regarding the dramatically increased unemployment level in the sector on Jan. 9. “In the media sector, which has the highest unemployment level among all sectors, one out of every four journalists is unemployed. Out of thousands of young people who graduate from departments of journalism and communication every year, only five percent of them can find a job,” it had said.
CHP MP’s report: 108 journalists behind bars
Separately, on Jan. 10, a former journalist and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) Deputy Utku Çakırözer released a report regarding press freedoms in Turkey in 2019.
According to the report, Turkey is the world’s second largest jailer of journalists after China with 108 journalists behind bars, while 172 journalists had to defend themselves in court in 2019 due to their reporting, and at least 34 journalists were beaten on the streets within the year.
The report also indicated that more than 36,000 internet sites were banned in Turkey last year, while at least ten journalists were handed criminal fines amounting to more than 400,000 TL. Meanwhile the country’s broadcast watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) fined 12 television stations and one radio station a total of 3.8 million TL.
Throughout 2019, at least 250 journalists were fired or forced to resign from their jobs. Many of these journalists were forced out of outlets owned by the Demirören Media Group, a company friendly with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who purchased the company from the Doğan Media Group, which had faced significant pressure from the government over the years due to its once-critical stance, which it had severely toned down before selling the company altogether.
A primary means of support that enables newspapers to stay afloat are paid official announcements sent by the Press Advertising Agency (BİK). Last year, the BİK stopped sending these announcements to critical daily newspapers including Birgün, Cumhuriyet, Evrensel and Yeni Asya, cutting off a main source of these newspapers’ revenue.
In recent years, the AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have tightened their grip over the country’s media, cracking down on critical outlets while coopting mainstream channels and newspapers, which effectively function as PR agencies for the Erdoğan-led government.
Erdoğan’s message: Polyphonic media indispensable condition of democratic society
Erdoğan released a message to mark the Jan. 10 Working Journalists’ Day on Thursday. In his message Erdoğan told that Turkey is one of the leading countries in the world in printed and broadcast media as well as in social media and Internet journalism.
“The existence of media, which is polyphonic, effective and capable of informing the public without being subject to any restrictions, is an indispensable condition of a democratic and transparent society,” he said.
Working Journalists’ Day has been celebrated in Turkey since 1961 to honor the work and freedom of journalists.