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Journalists on Journalism

Turks Get Some of the News, Not All

Nilay Karaelmas, WPR Correspondent, Ankara

This article appeared in the December 2001 World Press Review (VOL. 48, No. 12)

The lack of total press freedom in Turkey is one of the main reasons that the general circulation of print publications is a mere 3 million in a country whose population is 65 million.

There is a wide variety of media outlets in the country: some 30 national dailies (nearly 15 mainstream), five national weeklies, 25 local papers in the Turkish language, and two English-language national dailies. There are also about 18 national radio stations, hundreds of local radio stations, nearly 25 national TV channels, and 20 local TV channels.

It’s quite a dilemma. Turkey has a lively press and there is no overt censorship, but it remains a difficult environment for independent journalism. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 14 journalists were imprisoned in Turkey at the end of 2000 and many journalists ended up in court for prosecutions stemming from their work.

The environment is also difficult for radio and television journalism. The Radio and Television Higher Board has the power to close radio and TV broadcasts temporarily or sometimes permanently. So, in a country where the minumum wage is around US$160 a month, the annual national per-capita income is only $2,500, and the average price of a daily is 25 cents, radio and television stations in Turkey the primary source of information are currently in jeopardy because of RTUK practices.

Although in the southeast region, the majority of the population is Kurdish, broadcasts in the Kurdish language are illegal and distribution of pro-Kurdish or leftist publications is banned. Although reform of these repressive policies is widely viewed here as a necessary precondition for Turkey’s accession to the European Union, the far-right National Movement Party, a member of the current governing coalition, remains strongly opposed to Kurdish-language radio and television broadcasts.

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