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

Karzai's Legacy: Missed Opportunities?

Afghanistan's president leaves behind a much different nation than the one he inherited, yet his legacy from 13 years in power is getting mixed reviews More

US Urges Restraint in Hong Kong Protests

Protesters angered by Beijing's decision to only approve candidates that it sanctions for Hong Kong's leadership elections in 2017 More

Archive of Forgotten UCLA Speeches Offers Snapshot of History

Recordings of prominent voices in social change, politics, science and literature from 1960s, early 1970s now available on YouTube 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.
Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenyai
X
Gabe Joselow
September 29, 2014 6:20 PM
Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Iran's Rouhani Skeptical on Syria Strikes

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani expressed skepticism Friday that U.S.-led airstrikes in Iraq and Syria could crush Islamic State militants. From New York, VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports the president was also hopeful that questions about Iran’s nuclear program could be resolved soon.
Video

Video US House Speaker: Congress Should Debate Authorization Against IS

As wave after wave of U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State militants, the speaker of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives says he would be willing to call Congress back into session to debate a formal, broad authorization for the use of military force. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where legislators left town 10 days ago for a seven-week recess.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Video

Video Ebola Robs Liberians of Chance to Say Good-Bye to Loved Ones

In Liberia, where Ebola has killed more than 1,500 people, authorities have worked hard to convince people to allow specialized burial teams to take away dead bodies. But these safety measures, while necessary, make it hard for people to say good bye to their loved ones. VOA's Anne Look reports on the tragedy from Liberia.
Video

Video Reconstruction? What Reconstruction? Life After War in Gaza

It’s been a month since Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire to end 52 days of an air and tank war that left 60,000 homes in Gaza damaged or destroyed and 110,000 homeless. Sharon Behn reports that lack of reconstruction is leading to despair.
Video

Video US, Saudi Arabia and UAE Hit Islamic State's Oil Revenue

The United States, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have bombed oil facilities operated by Islamic State militants in Syria. It was a truly collaborative effort, with the two Arab countries dropping the majority of the bombs. The 12 refineries targeted were estimated to generate as much as $2 million per day for the terrorist group. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb has the story.
Video

Video Russia's Food Sanctions Raise Price Worries, Hopes for Domestic Production

Russia retaliated against Western sanctions imposed for its actions in Ukraine by halting food imports from the West. The temporary import ban on food from Australia, the European Union, Norway and North America has Russian consumers concerned that they could face a sharp increase in food prices. But in an ironic twist, the restrictions aimed at the Kremlin have made Russia's domestic food producers hopeful this can boost their business. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Washington to Pyongyang: 'Shut This Evil System Down'

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on North Korea to shut down prison camps and other human rights abuses following a United Nations Commission of Inquiry into "widespread and systematic human rights violations." VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid