Global Media Café: "Free Speech and Free Press in Turkey”

Published: November 09, 2017

A new Global Media Café took place at Stockholm University’s Department of Media Studies on November 8, 2017. Organized and sponsored by the Leading Research Environment “Global Media Studies and the Politics of Mediated Communication” (directed by Miyase Christensen), the event brought together journalists and experts to discuss the problem of free speech and free press.

Jonathan Lundqvist, Cengiz Çandar, Bitte Hammargren and Tomas Thorén discuss the situation of the press in Turkey. Photo by Rebecca Bengtsson.

Moderated by Professor Christian Christensen, the panel brought together Cengiz Çandar, Turkish journalist and author, Bitte Hammargren, Middle East and North Africa analyst at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, Tomas Thorén, journalist based in Istanbul and Jonathan Lundqvist, President of the Swedish charter of Reporters Without Borders.

Author and journalist Cengiz Candar opened the discussion with reflections on how the media situation in the country has developed over time, saying that in the hay day of Turkish press, journalists were respected and taken seriously by the public, and didn’t have to be afraid of being imprisoned for doing their job. He added that compared to the current situation, it is like night and day:
– Today there are journalists, but no journalism.

Bitte Hammargren, Middle East analyst continued along the same line saying that what is targeted in today’s media landscape is critical thinking, adding that the strategy of Erdogan is to shape the youth to follow the system:
– There used to be a belief in the role of journalism I society, but from what I have seen, journalists are now scared of the system, and they conform to the political climate.

Tomas Thorén, journalist based in Istanbul, raised concerns about how the worsening conditions for journalists to carry out their work had severe consequences for the general public:
– There has been a radical change in the past couple of years when it comes to the actual content in the press, the media landscape used to be quite diverse, with some variety of critical perspective. Even those outlets that used to be more critical in their reporting, are constrained by the system and they have stopped pushing the boundaries.

In recent years, the aggressive position taken by the AKP government in Turkey toward journalists, journalistic organisations and social media platforms has been well-documented. On how the suppression of speech and press in Turkey can be used in the service of power, Jonathan Lundqvist from the Swedish charter of Reporters Without Border raised self-censorship as a challenge for journalists working in Turkey:
– Today, some 170 Turkish journalists are imprisoned. Another problem is that while it is one thing to measure who is imprisoned, it is another to try to measure the level of self-censorship that journalists are enforcing in their daily work. We have seen that a system has been created within the profession where even those working as journalists have started to control themselves, and in essence doing the regime’s work for them.

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