Tens of print and media outlets have been either seized or forced to shut down by the Turkish authorities in the past few years. Hundreds of journalists have been jailed, intimidated or fined for their journalistic works. Space for independent journalism in the country has shrunk alarmingly.
Critics of the government are targeted – some even facing attempts on their lives. Yet, quite remarkably, the authorities have failed to stop some extremely brave journalists and media outlets in the country from writing and reporting independently of the government.
Journalist Can Dundar, and television channel Can Erzincan most prominently exemplify such journalists and media outlets in the country.
Firstly, on May 6 2016 an assassination attempt was made on Dundar outside a courthouse in Istanbul. He survived the attack but was handed over a five-year term in jail by the court anyway for publishing secret state documents.
Following the attack and the verdict he said, "In the space of two hours we have experienced two assassination attempts: one was done with a gun, the other was judicial.”
|Space for independent journalism in Turkey has shrunk alarmingly.|
It was a strong and brave statement for a journalist who has been relentlessly hounded by state officials of all ranks, including the president of the country, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Dundar continues to voice his differences with the government and its policies quite openly and scathingly.
Secondly, after the removal of TV stations belonging to the Samanyolu Media Group from the top satellite network, Turksat (thus effectively closing them) in 2015, the Can Erzincan television channel is expecting the same fate very soon.
The channel has been reportedly told that either they themselves go off-air by July 16, or the authorities will remove it from the satellite network by then.
One of the reasons that has troubled the channel apart from its independent reporting and coverage is the fact that it now hosts many political commentators and analysts who were the faces of Samanyolu TV channels. Nazli Ilicak and Mumtaz’er Turkone are the two most prominent faces among them.
However, against all the odds, the channel has refused to accept the government’s demand of toeing the official line. The owner and manager of the channel, Recep Aktas defiantly said in Tweet, "Because we didn’t call ISIS DAESH, because we honestly reported on the martyred soldiers, because we support the victims they are shutting down our Can Erzincan."
Additionally, journalists from now seized Feza Media Group have also launched four different newspapers and a news agency as the previously best-selling dailies, Zaman and Today’s Zaman, and a reputed news agency, Cihan that were owned by the group have now been turned into pro-government mouthpieces.
The newly launched newspapers Ozgur Dusunce, Yeni Hayat, Yarina Bakis and Meydan, and the news agency, Muhabir are further illustrations of how resilient the independent journalists in Turkey are, but unfortunately the authoritarianism of Erdogan is also unabating.
The current threat to Can Erzincan channel demonstrates how intolerant the Turkish president continues to be of independent, non-complying voices in the media.
If the channel is taken off-air by July 16 as vowed by the government, it will remain to be seen which, if any, independent channel shows courage as this one; and then again if that is silenced.