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Freedom and Democratization: Turkey’s Need for a Paradigm Shift in the Media Freedom Debate

When considering the problems of media freedom in Turkey, two types of pressures come to the fore: (1) the first-hand and tangible pressures exerted on the media by the civilian and military powers, and (2) the indirect and intangible pressures caused by the ideological circles encapsulating the civilian and military powers. Looking at the history of media in Turkey, it becomes apparent that it is not the political institution that is the main factor limiting media freedom, but rather the official ideology surrounding the political institution. In this context, it is necessary to consider the issue of freedom of media in Turkey through the perspective of the democratization of both the country and its media sector. This study will discuss freedom of media in Turkey and the relation between media and politics by focusing on the democratization of the sector, without excluding the perspective that the media should be distant from the pressures of the civil and military centers who hold the administration in their hands.

Freedom and Democratization Turkey s Need for a Paradigm Shift
Different Turkish Newspapers in the late 1990s had a common headline using the word "warning" against the Welfare Party of Necmettin Erbakan.
 

The sailor rushing from one seaport to the next, transmitting information and news, and the journalist, who, despite undergoing various pressures and difficult conditions, thinks of nothing but the public interest, and struggles to convey the news to people eager to exercise their right to obtain information, may still be the role models of many idealistic journalists today. Yet the media sector’s political, social and legal relationships are quite different from –and more complex– than those found in the early days of journalism. On an individual level, we still undoubtedly come across idealistic journalists who are motivated beyond professionalism to pursue news stories and contribute to society’s right to access news and information. These individuals clearly contribute to democratic processes. On the other hand, the media’s relationships with politics and the economy have changed in accordance with its growth as an industry. With this change, unfortunately, the media has departed from its initial idealism. As a result of this departure, a substantial part of media studies literature today examines the aforementioned relationships, which continuously deepen.1 

It is possible to see a similar course of development in the Turkish media industry. The media in Turkey is not independent of power relations in respect to its sources and impacts. Indeed, it does not show any sign of becoming independent in the near future. Beyond any doubt, there are too many methods power holders use to put pressure on the media. When the course of media in Turkey is reviewed, two methods stand out: (1) the direct and physical repression of government control, and (2) indirect and non-physical repression by the ideological framework which surrounds the media and the government alike.


Freedom of the media is generally depicted as a luxury which is

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