The latest episode of FeniksPod welcomed Gurkan Ozturan, Media Freedom Rapid Response Coordinator at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and an author of Freedom House’s latest “Freedom on the Net 2021” report.
Ozturan commented on the report as well as the state of internet and media freedoms in Turkey.
“Freedom House has been publishing this report for 11 years, and in these 11 years we have been seeing a decline in digital rights and liberties. Over the years, we have seen more and more countries opt for authoritarian measures, targeting users’ rights on the internet”, Ozturan said.
He explained that governments did so by way of surveillance, censorship, or prosecution of users for expressing their opinion online.
“When we look at this year’s report, Turkey lost one point this year, [due in part to] new taxes and regulations imposed on communication services”, Ozturan described, arguing that the most important development of the last reporting year was Turkey’s new social media law.
The new law, which came into effect in October 2020, stipulates that platforms with over a million daily users are required to remove content deemed “offensive” by the Turkish authorities within 48 hours of being notified.
If they fail to comply, social media companies face severe penalties including fines, advertising bans, and restrictions on bandwidth.
“We will soon see another stricter social media law in Turkish parliament”, Ozturan said.
He also went on to comment on the poor state of media freedoms in Turkey.
“Since the establishment of the Ottoman Empire’s first newspaper 200 years ago, media freedom in Turkey has always been troubled. In today’s digital age, we see that Turkish society is being denied access to information”, he said.
According to him, censorship within the Turkish media is a critical issue. He cited examples of certain earthquakes and the Turkish Air Force’s bombing of civilians in Roboski/Uludere as instances in which critical events were first brought to the attention of Turkish society by foreign news agencies.
Ozturan also pointed out that Turkey ranks 153rd in terms of press freedom according to Reporters Without Borders.
“When observing the last 20 years’ performance of media freedoms under the current government’s rule, we see that media freedom in Turkey has deteriorated quite terribly”, said Ozturan.
In the end, he added that 90 percent of the Turkish media is closely or directly controlled by the Erdogan government and that the remaining few independent media outlets suffer from government pressure.
“The lack of pluralism also increases polarisation in the country. I am personally unable to see how this can be overcome unless pressure is lifted from the media”, Ozturan concluded.
You can listen to the full FeniksPod episode on SoundCloud.