Turkey’s prime minister Erdogan’s rhetoric is in name of democratic and social liberties, prior to his reelection almost a year ago he released a “Vision Statement” in which he said “We should adopt democracy,not as a political model, but as a culture dominating every field of our lives.” However his actions are clearly contradictory to his rhetoric and since 2002 his rule has taken on an increasingly authoritarian direction. One way this has become evident is in relation to press freedom among others. (Huijgh 2015)
Especially the Gezi Park protest in Istanbul and other turkish cities two years ago have brought to the attention the growing restriction of press freedom in Turkey. The events were hardly mentioned by the turkish news media and even the “professional private” news channels refrained from extensively reporting on the events. (Baydar 2013) While CNN international reported new from Turkey, its local counter part aired a documentary on penguins. (Tufekci 2013) Turkish authorities wen as far as attempting to “to discredit the BBC and intimidate its journalists”. (Halliday 2013) According to Baydar this is nothing new Erdogan has the traditional news media firm under control and there have been news blackouts on other serious issues, especially regarding the Kurdish conflict. (Baydar 2013) Additionaly a growing number of investigative and critical journalists have lost their jobs in mainstream print and TV media during Erdogan’s rule. (An interesting article on this and the translation of a column that the turkish newspaper Millyet refused to print can be found here)
But this is not all! For Erdogan it is not enough to have the traditional press and news media under his control, more than anything social media is the thorn in his eye. “We’ll eradicate Twitter. I don’t care what the international community says. Everyone will witness the power of the Turkish Republic.” He said shortly before a ban on twitter was implemented following the leaking of recordings that supposedly reveal corruption in his administration on the social media platform. (McCoy 2014)
Shortly after the ban started being effective, instructions on how to keep tweeting despite it proliferated and were shared among the social media community. (three ways to to tweet despite the ban) The number of Tweets even rose after the ban was in effect, “according to social media agency We Are Social the number of tweets sent from Turkey went up 138% following the ban.”(Letsch 2014) The reaction within turkey and also the international perception show that social media have become a vital mean of communication in the 21st century and it has highlighted the will of people to find ways to express themselves freely. It also has shown that in todays world you cannot shut down a whole social media platform (especially not in a country that is democratic), just because you are a powerful leader.
Erdogan’s attempt to ban twitter has also shown another important thing. Before the emergence of social media it was enough to control the conventional new media and censor ship was more easily applied. However today in a world where you can share your thought with the rest of the world within seconds, social media has the overhand and as his failed attempt at shutting down twitter has shown it is far harder to control social media than it is to control the conventional new media. People are eager to express their opinion and freedom of expression has found a new outlet, enabling to circumvent censorship by the state.
Here you can find the story of the turkish journalist Yavuz Baydar on why he was fired from Sabah, according to the author “one of Turkey’s oldest and most vocal ‘mainstream’ papers.”
Here you can find an Article on the number of journalists jailed in Turkey
- Huijgh, E. 2015, Press Freedom Under Pressure: The Widening Gap Between Turkey’s PD Rhetoric and Reality. Available from: https://uscpublicdiplomacy.org/blog/press-freedom-under-pressure-widening-gap-between-turkeys-pd-rhetoric-and-reality
- Letsch, C. 2014, Turkey Twitter users flout Erdogan ban on micro-blogging site. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/21/turkey-twitter-users-flout-ban-erdogan
- Baydar, Y. 2013 In Turkey, Media Bosses Are Undermining Democracy Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/opinion/sunday/in-turkey-media-bosses-are-undermining-democracy.html?_r=1&adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1374657650-i7mKeriTn9pLcT2dYANg3g
- Tufekci, Z. 2013 It Takes a Quiz Show Host: #Occupygezi and Culture Jamming against CensorshipTurkey. Available at http://technosociology.org/?p=1297
- Halliday, J. 2013 BBC journalist received ‘threatening’ tweets from Turkish mayor. Available at http://www.theguardian.com/media/2013/jun/24/bbc-journalist-tweets-turkish-mp
- McCoy, T. Turkey bans Twitter — and Twitter explodes. Available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/03/21/turkey-bans-twitter-and-twitter-explodes/