The International Press Institute’s (IPI) first virtual World Congress hosted a session on Wednesday, September 23 to discuss how the quality and investigative journalism will look like in the near future when approaching Turkey’s 2023 Centenary and what needs to be done to ensure journalism is prepared for a freer future.
The webinar, moderated by BBC’s former Turkey correspondent Mark Lowen who has worked in Turkey between 2014 – 2019 , was joined by IPI Executive Board Member and Chair of IPI Turkey National Committee Kadri Gürsel, reporter, producer and TV anchor Nevşin Mengü, freelance journalist and IPI Turkey National Committee member İpek Yezdani, and journalism student from Galatasaray University Aylin Şener.
You need to have two things to be a journalist in Turkey: thick skin and a good lawyer,’’ Lowen said regarding his working experience between 2014 and 2019 which he calls ‘’extremely turbulent times’’. Yezdani who was laid off in 2019 from Hürriyet newspaper after working there for 9 years, believes the scenery for free media in Turkey at the moment is really bad and expects it to be like that for a while. ‘’There are several independent media outlets, but their budgets are really low. There is nowhere left to learn and practice journalism. The norms we see in the newsrooms are not ethical anymore.’’
Gürsel believes the way to protect freedom of press is possible solidarity between readers, not just only between journalists. ‘’They have to support, subscribe to independent news outlets and buy newspapers. They should actively engage with donation campaigns’’ he says.
‘’Readers have to talk about independent journalism for the sake of democracy. Uninformed citizens cannot participate in democractic life. This is crucial; if independent media goes away, a very important pillar of democracy will cease to exist,’’ Gürsel underlines.
“Solidarity mustn’t be only between journalists. It must be in btw viewers. They should actively engage w/ donations, subscriptions. Uninformed citizens can’t participate in democratic life.” pic.twitter.com/vn5vJSKuEO
— IPI – The Global Network for Press Freedom (@globalfreemedia) September 23, 2020
Aylin Şener said they, as journalism students, need to encourage themselves. ‘’We are the generation who will create the new landscape for the future of journalism’’ she pointed out. However, she added how the curriculum is the main issue and was not adapted to the new digital media, where quality and investigative journalism survives right now.
Nevşin Mengü highlighted how hard it is to survive in an independent media organisation which has a hard time financially surviving themselves. She said ‘’You can talk to the camera, just sit and comment on the news; this is the cheapest thing a journalist can do. But if you want to produce serious news on site, it is expensive.’’
‘’Normal journalists are on Youtube, crazy preachers are on TV,’’ she added.
When asked how the new social media law will further affect journalistic work; Yezdani saaid the independent media will be forced to self-censor themselves.