As a new report puts Turkey's media in the same category as North Korea, it is time for the world to wake up to the plight of their imprisoned scribesby Serena Kutchinsky / May 19, 2014 / Leave a comment
Images of Turkish government advisors assaulting protestors in Soma have been suppressed by mainstream media © Depo Photos/ABACA/PA
What makes a free press? In the wake of the Leveson Inquiry and the phone hacking scandal, it’s a concept that has preoccupied many British journalists. I was working for News UK when the controversy was at its peak, and happened to be in the building when the tearful News of the World staff marched defiantly out of their newsroom for the final time. At the time I was torn between deep sympathy for the innocent journalists who had just lost their jobs, and deep shame at being part of a company associated with such gutter tabloid practices. That feeling of angst developed first into a brief career crisis, quickly followed by an abiding fascination with the question of press freedom and what can be done to best preserve it both at home, and abroad.
While we have made some progress in addressing those issues in this country, (new regulatory body the Independent Press Standards Organisation will come into being in June), a dispiriting new report reveals that the level of global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in a decade. According to the research, carried out by the respected American watchdog Freedom House, 44 per cent of world’s population live under a press that is “not free”, while only 14 per cent enjoy the benefits of a fully free media.
Among the nations leading this decline is Turkey which has slipped into the “not free” category alongside the likes of Ukraine and North Korea. Despite the recent repressive behaviour of its Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who shut down Twitter and YouTube in the run-up to recent local elections, this initially struck me as a rather draconian judgment. But, after journeying to Istanbul and learning of the tough conditions in which my fellow scribes are forced to operate in a nation which is best described as an “illiberal democracy”, I now fully support this judgment.
The world urgently needs to wake up to the plight of the Turkish press—it is the world’s leading jailer of journalists—there were 40 behind bars in December 2013, although that is reported to have now fallen to 18. Where is the global outcry? When Al Jazeera journalists…