News / Europe

Restrictions on Turkish Media Tighten

Turkish journalists demonstrate outside the governor's office to protest censorship and new regulations on media freedoms and Internet bans in Istanbul, Feb. 16, 2014.
Turkish journalists demonstrate outside the governor's office to protest censorship and new regulations on media freedoms and Internet bans in Istanbul, Feb. 16, 2014.
Dorian Jones
Turkey's President Abdullah Gül has signed controversial new Internet control measures into law despite national and international criticism and concerns about reduced freedoms for Turkish media. VOA's Dorian Jones met in Istanbul with the founder of an independent Internet news site that has been at the forefront of the battle over Internet and press freedom.

The website Vagus.tv features a mixture of professional and citizen journalism. According to its founder, Serdar Akinan, such sites have become increasingly popular, especially in the last couple of months, due to extensive allegations of high-level government corruption. But Akinan said reporting on corruption put Vagus itself in the news.

"We started to publish some corruption allegations about the prime minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]. But all of sudden, one night, like two weeks ago, they shut [us] down, they closed the site. And 12 days we stayed closed, but after I became an issue in Turkey ... they were forced to open the site," said Akinan.

In a parliamentary address, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party, demanded to know why Vagus website was blocked. That pressure appeared to work and the authorities reopened the site, providing little in the way of explanation as to why it was closed and then reopened.

This is not the first time that Akinan has crossed swords with the government. He was once a well-known and established mainstream journalist, working as an editor at some of the top Turkish news TV channels.

But, he claimed, he has become a marked man for pursuing an editorial policy that is impartial, including its coverage of Prime Minister Erdoğan.

"Two years ago I was editor-in-chief of Sky Turk News Channel, so because of my broadcasting policy, let's say there was huge pressure. I know that the government, especially Prime Minister Erdoğan, pushed very hard for firing me, and one day they fired me. I was writing also [a] column for Aksam daily, and also I was fired from there. So Vagus was born like that," said Akinan.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists, in its recent report about attacks on the press during the past year, highlighted what it contends is the widespread policy in Turkey of firing journalists critical of the government. Similar concerns were reflected by the European Union in its latest report on Turkey’s membership bid. Charges the government denies, insisting that media freedom has improved under its rule.

Akinan’s launch of the Vagus.tv site fortuitously coincided with last summer’s wave of anti-government demonstrations, known as the Gezi Park protests. With mainstream media widely suspected of being under government pressure to play down the unrest, news sites like Vagus filled the vacuum. But it proved to be a bittersweet success.

"Vagus, after the Gezi Park protests, reached 2 million unique visitors per month, which is quite a big number for Turkey. And I go check all the advertising companies, and they say this is quite a good number and normally you should get this amount of advertising, but we cannot give to you. Because your site, you are doing some news, and that the prime minister is not happy with you, and you are on the blacklist," said Akinan.

And it is likely that things will get worse for Akinan.

Earlier this month, thousands of people protested against the government's move to extend its control over the Internet. The sweeping legislation gives the ruling AK Party the power to close websites deemed to threaten individual privacy, without a court order. Akinan admitted the new law could force him out of business.

"Before that it was just judges ... deciding bad and good content. Now it’s the bureaucrats - bureaucrats appointed by the prime minister himself. There is no more justice for the journalists. My wife and me, we are planning to go outside Istanbul, we will open an organic farm and we will live like that," he said.

Observers warn that Ankara is likely to face growing domestic and international pressure over Internet and journalist freedom.

On Tuesday, President Gül expressed concern about dwindling press freedom in Turkey, saying the media have the right to rise up against “wrongful practices.” He compared Turkey's global image to that of a light which had been shining brightlhy but is now fading.

You May Like

US Imposes Sanctions on Alleged Honduran Drug Gang

Treasury department alleges Los Valles group is responsible for smuggling tens of thousands of kilograms of cocaine into US each month More

At 91, Marvel Creator Stan Lee Continues to Expand his Universe

Company's chief emeritus hopes to interest new generation of children in superheroes of all shapes and sizes by publishing content across multiple media platforms More

Photogallery New Drug Protects Against Virus in Ebola Family

Study by researchers at University of Texas Medical Branch, Tekmira Pharmaceuticals is first looking at drug's effectiveness after onset of symptoms More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebolai
X
George Putic
August 20, 2014 8:57 PM
While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls For Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid