YAVUZ – Why is there (almost) no investigative journalism in Turkey?

Why is there (almost) no investigative journalism in Turkey?This time, it is much more than an uphill battle. It resembles a desperate struggle to keep a position while trying to climb a cliff.

There are 80 days left to the general election, and this time we are facing a final test over whether or not journalism in Turkey has anything left of its ability to fulfill its democratic mission to inform the people and the electorate, to make a healthy, sound and andldquoinformedandrdquo decision over the fate of their country.The current domain of journalism has already taken the shape of a cage.

The mainstream field of practice is now dominated by a bulk of media employees who choose to abide by the rules, andldquodo not ask any questions and just report in a flat, official bulletin format.andrdquo Others simply feel forced to do so, trembling in fear of being fired.

This is particularly the reality among TV channels, the only or main source of andldquoinformationandrdquo for the public — up to around 80-85 percent of people. There are now only a few of them left (Fox, Bugun TV, STV, Halk TV and IMCTV), in a segment of 250 in total, which have the ability to reach large chunks of the voters, national or regional.

The rest is mainly self-censored by andldquoremote control.andrdquoOn social media, it has now been established with the notorious case of Sedef KabaI, who is charged with up to five years in prison over a critical tweet, that to tweet dissent, mockery or objections about the political situation, mentioning the name of President Recep Tayyip ErdoIan, can lead to being labeled a public enemy.

The latest case — that of Aytekin Gezici, a journalist and writer — is telling. His flat was raided by the police in connection with a charge of insulting ErdoIan.

His lawyer stated that Geziciand#39s computer and mobile phone had been seized. This episode only adds to many other cases of how much of a andldquonuisanceandrdquo the authorities see social mediaTo put an end to what to the authorities appear to be jarred voices, a bill — which earlier was shelved — has again been brought before Parliament.

Its aim is very simple: By extending the powers given to the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB), access to content critical of the authorities can be blocked four hours after issuing a warning to the website in question. Then, it will be up to the so-called andldquopeace courtsandrdquo to tackle the matter within 48 hours.

This andldquoexpandedandrdquo model of andldquovirtual emergency rule,andrdquo if approved, will only help us show a more rigidly shaped cage for the new media The apparent rush to bring it to a vote in Parliament means that breathing space on the Internet and social media needs to be minimized to secure another victory for the Justice and Development Party (AKP).The state of the so-called andldquoconventional mediaandrdquo is already down at the level of suffocation.

A brand-new study conducted by Transparency International (TI) on impunity, corruption and the media only confirms what has been known all along: that covering corruption, the abuse of power and organized crime (political or not) in Turkey requires immense courage and resolve.Censorship and self-censorship have now taken journalism hostage.

Eighty-six percent of Turkish journalists questioned in the survey believe that this is widespread. When asked andldquoWhat are the stories that are subjected most to [self-] censorship?andrdquo the responses are: Corruption in the government, municipalities, the bureaucracy and the judiciary: 92 percent relations between media proprietors and the government or opposition: 63 percent corruption in private business and media: 51 percent and brutality by the security forces: 46 percent.

The TI study also finds that there is an overwhelming consensus among Turkish journalists about the existence of a relationship between covering corruption and the public interest. But, what about the fear among those who want to remain loyal to their professional role and values by chasing such stories? The fears of being charged and of being fired as a consequence are almost at the same level: 78 percent and 76 percent.

We know by now that this fear is successfully injected within the conglomerate media by employers. The others, almost only in print, are only a handful — such as Cumhuriyet, Zaman, BirGun, etc.

— and, struggling also with growing financial hardship, the room for coverage of corruption in Turkey is next to non-existent at the moment, facing extinction as a noble practice.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman