GuNAY HILAL – Turkey among ‘Not Free’ countries in press freedom

Turkey among ‘Not Free’ countries in press freedomFreedom House, a US-based independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, issued its annual report on press freedom on May 1. Ranking 154th, Turkey was downgraded from “Partly Free” to “Not Free,” a spot it hasn’t been in for 15 years. The report stressed that the biggest decline in Europe took place in Turkey, as the country shared its spot with South Sudan, Libya and Ecuador. “The press freedom climate deteriorated sharply during the year as journalists were harassed and assaulted while attempting to cover the Gezi Park protests in May, and dozens were fired or forced to resign in response to sympathetic coverage of the protesters’ demands,” the report said. The Freedom House also emphasized “several high-profile dismissals” at the Milliyet daily, which was recently acquired by the Demirren Group — known to be close to the prime minister — and others at the Sabah daily, which was sold in 2011 to Turkuvaz Media. The media group is owned by businessman Ahmet alIk, who is close to the government, and Berat Albayrak, ErdoIan’s son-in-law, was the CEO of alIk Holding until November 2013 and effectively ran Turkuvaz Media as well.Pelin Cengiz, a columnist with the Taraf daily, wrote a Sunday piece titled “Shanghai criteria in press freedom.” Cengiz noted that Turkey marked this year’s World Press Freedom Day, which was on May 3, by becoming one of the “Not Free” countries in the field of media. According to Cengiz, day-by-day Turkey keeps falling behind in the sense of press freedom. The recent report by the Freedom House received backlash from the government, Cengiz wrote, adding that the only two countries who objected to the results of the report were Turkey and Azerbaijan. The columnist pointed out that the report included the fact that government control over media outlets had expanded even more following last summer’s Gezi Park protests and that the media coverage of the Dec. 17 corruption operation led to a purge of media employees. Cengiz reminded her readers that in 2013, Turkey ranked 120th among 197 countries in terms of press freedom and was designated as “Partly Free” by the Freedom House, which has been active since 1941. That 120th spot was shared by Turkey, Congo, Fiji, Liberia, Macedonia and Seychelles, which was an indicator that the country’s 2014 ranking was not going to be so bright, Cengiz commented. “Freedom House categorizes Turkey under European countries, and yet Turkey consistently manages to rank the lowest among them. According to the report, there are no countries other than Turkey among EU member states and EU candidates designated as ‘Not Free.’ With this new status, Turkey now has the opportunity to be accepted as a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO], which consists of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan,” Cengiz wrote.Milliyet daily columnist Mehmet Tezkan said that Turkey’s new spot in the Freedom Houser report demonstrates that the country has now fallen behind Indonesia, Tanzania and Kenya in terms of press freedom. “Turkey is now in the same league with Arab countries, China, Russia, Armenia and Ecuador. Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoIlu said that Turkey’s ranking in the report aimed at undermining the country’s image. Lately, all sorts of criticism directed at Turkey are responded to with the same wording,” Tezkan commented. Pointing out that DavutoIlu had asked the Turkish media to ignore the report, the columnist compared this with senior AK Party deputy Burhan Kuzu tossing an EU report critical of Turkey into a trash can during a live broadcast. Tezkan said, “Should we do what he did? Well, what did he change with this behavior? Nothing. It was just posturing.”

SOURCE: Todays Zaman

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