A civil society initiative, “Our Media,” composed of seven Western Balkan countries, including Turkey’s IPS Communication Foundation/bianet, has released its inaugural report. The report, featuring evaluations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey, analyzes media self-regulation based on each country’s specific challenges.
Sinem Aydınlı, the research coordinator for IPS Communication Foundation/bianet, spearheaded the Turkish section of the report, with Brankica Petković serving as the editor and regional responsible researcher. The report is titled “A Challenging Task in a Pressured Media Environment: Media Self-Regulation in Turkey.”
In the context of this report, Aydınlı engaged with various people in the field, including Ceren Sözeri from Galatasaray University, Emre Kızılkaya from IPI Turkey and Journo, independent media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici, lawyer Faruk Çayır from the Alternative Informatics Association, Gökhan Durmuş, the chair of the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS), İlhan Taşçı from the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), Murat İnceoğlu, the editor-in-chief of bianet, Murat Önok from Koç University and the Press Council, Nadire Mater, the chair of the IPS Communication Foundation, Pınar Türenç, the chir of the Press Council, Sibel Güneş, the general secretary of the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC), and Süleyman Irvan from Üsküdar University.
“Control mechanisms have turned into instruments of punishment”
The report on media ethics and self-regulation in Turkey provides an assessment of the challenges in applying ethical principles and developing sustainable self-regulation mechanisms. The findings link the absence of a sustainable media self-regulation framework in Turkey and the deficiencies in current activities and initiatives to the country’s undemocratic and oppressive atmosphere.
Aydınlı says in the report, “Therefore, it is not surprising that journalists and their organizations face heavy pressures to conform to the frameworks of control mechanisms that have turned into instruments of state punishment, and independent media self-regulation cannot be established in Turkey.”
The report examines the efforts of independent organizations such as the Press Council, TGC, TGS, and the independent media ombudsman in Turkey and explores potential strategies that could enhance media self-regulation in the country. It also aims to provide perspectives on the current state of media self-regulation and identify the strengths and weaknesses of media self-regulation.
Ethical principles and independent media
While emphasizing the importance of ethical principles and media self-regulation in the report, Aydınlı notes that the primary focus in Turkey is currently on violations of media freedom.
In this context, she argues that the precondition for the proper functioning of media self-regulation and adherence to ethical principles by journalists and media organizations is to have independent media free from any form of power and to live in a democratic society.
Gökhan Durmuş, the General President of TGS, quoted in the report, states, “Journalism continues to be a low-paying, high-risk profession with the risk of high judicial harassment, lacking job security, unstable, and risky, while journalism ethics and media self-regulation are not discussed as press freedom seriously regresses in the country.”
Criticism of the public broadcaster
The report also criticizes the public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), noting that it currently operates 18 television and 17 radio channels with broadcasts in 41 languages and dialects but lacks an ethical code or complaint mechanism. Aydınlı argues in the report, “TRT, affiliated with the Presidency of Communications and openly follows the line of the AKP government in its broadcasting policies. While it is expected that a public broadcaster serves the public interest, TRT is not impartial and does not treat all political parties and groups equally. In other words, public broadcasting in Turkey is not independent, and this situation contradicts international ethical principles. Moreover, TRT is not subject to any regulatory complaint procedure because regulatory mechanisms already serve as a tool for punishment for the government.”
• Although ethical principles and self-regulation are significant matters, violations of media freedom are currently center stage in Turkey. The focus is on the steps required to recreate an independent media and live in a democratic society. A democratic society in which media is independent of any power centers is a precondition for media self-regulation to work properly and for journalists and media organizations to comply with ethical principles.
• The report shows that the responsibility for self-regulation has been left to the own devices of rights organizations active in the field of journalism and freedom of expression, although it has not been completely abandoned. There are still efforts to find new ways of media self-regulation. Although ethical principles and self-regulation are significant matters, violations of media freedom are currently center stage in Turkey. The focus is on the steps required to recreate an independent media and live in a democratic society.
• Under current circumstances, the PC should take concrete action to follow up in practice on the effects of its warnings. The interviews show wide support for the idea that the implementation of the Council warnings should be supported by a follow-up mechanism and practical action.
• The Turkish Journalists’ Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities (a code of conduct) adopted by the TGC is a point of reference for the journalists who believe that ethical standards are being developed and revised under changing circumstances.
• A common suggestion is that the first step would be for media organizations to start self-regulation within their respective organization. Media representatives believe that self-regulation should begin internally in particular media outlets, and voluntarily, as a fresh start.
• The efforts of the one existing ombudsman are seen as worth following, but their work only creates a real impact in the long run with the support of independent media organizations.
• All in all, the agenda of rights organizations active in the field of journalism and freedom of expression has shifted from the issue of ethical principles in the media to press freedom as a result of the repressive political atmosphere, the monopolization of media ownership, and the political and economic interests of media owners vis-à-vis the government. That is why hot topics in EU regulations such as the proposed European Media Freedom Act, AI, and co-regulation of online content are not yet on the agenda.
Source : Bianet