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Politics and Media

Penguins became the symbol of the censorship in the media in Turkey in 2013, when during the Gezi protests CNN Türk, a news channel, aired a documentary about penguins, instead of reporting the events.


AKP's rise


Justice and Development Party (AKP), founders of which include current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, identifies itself as a "conservative democrat" party. The party has enjoyed parliamentary hegemony since its first electoral success in 2002, forming a single majority government in four elections since then. AKP briefly lost its majority in the parliament for the first time in the 7 June 2015 general elections, although receiving the highest number of votes. In the repeated election on 1 November 2015, the party regained the number of deputies to form a majority parliament.

Over the 15 years since then, Turkey has become a country where nearly half of the population oppose to Erdoğan and the ruling party. While AKP had the support of liberals initially, especially during the 2010 Constitution referendum, there has been growing resentment against the party, which reached its peak during the widespread antigovernment protests of 31 May 2013. Demands for a free press were central during the 2013 Gezi protests. The demonstrations named as Gezi protests/events started with the police intervenining in the sit-in protest in Gezi Park at Istanbul's Taksim Square against the unlawful construction of Artillery Barracks as part of the Taksim Pedestrianization Project. The calls for media freedom were one of the central points of Gezi Park protests. NTV and Habertürk channels faced protests in front of their doors, with protestors shouting "How much does it cost to get online?" Penguins became symbols of censorship due to the penguin documentary CNN Türk was airing during and instead of the protests.

22 journalists were dismissed during the protests, 37 were forced to resign. State broadcaster TRT started "Gezi investigations" into its 15 personnel. The police injured 105 journalists in the first month of Gezi, took 28 under detention. 3 journalists were jailed, 12 journalists resigned because of their outlets' policies.

In 2015, between two elections, the ongoing peace/solution process between the government and the PKK ended.


Media in a chokehold


In Turkey major media outlets not only do not/cannot report news free from government pressure, but also find themselves in the position of "the government's mouthpiece." President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan monitors both international and national media and journalists very closely; can intervene in media outlets' editorial policies; targets media outlets and journalists, by using their names or not. The number of those accused of "insulting the President" under Turkish Penal Code's Article 299 is not known. According to Bianet Media Monitoring Report, between September-December 2016, 28 people were in court for Article 299. Seven of these were journalists. Those who are fighting for media freedom and freedom of expression are opposing the government for not only the file suits opened against journalists and for the jailed journalists, but also for trying and turning the media pro-government.


Coup Attempt and the "State of Emergency"


Turkey is now being governed under a state of emergency, which was declared five days after the failed coup attempt in 15 July 2016 and 19 executive orders, for which AKP holds the Gulenist Organization to account, although having shared the power with the same organization between 2002-2013. Turkey has suspended the European Convention on Human Rights, as part of the Convention's 15th Article. The execution of this Article is still being discussed, in terms of fundamental human rights, especially media freedom and freedom of speech. The state of emergency is being extended every three months.

95,739 civil servants have been dismissed from their positions including generals, prosecutors, judges, academics. 4,481 academics and 155 administrative personnel (3,06 per cent) were fired from a total of 108 universities.

The number of those who are in jail based on state of emergency executive decrees is over 40,000.

People's Democratic Party (HDP), which defended peace against war [between the PKK and the Turkish Security Forces], and argued that the Kurdish question can only be solved through democratization, had its 12 parliament members, including the party's co-chairs, jailed. The party's co-mayors have been dismissed or imprisoned.

With executive orders (decrees), 178 media outlets [newspapers (62), TVs (34), radios (23)] have been shut down and, at least 2,500 journalists have become unemployed.


Jailed journalists


As of 31 December 2016, 131 journalists are in jail. 81 of these journalists are on trial for "Gulenist Terror Organization-Parallel State Structure (FETÖ-PDY)" membership; whereas 31 are from te Kurdish media, 11 are from Cumhuriyet daily and the rest are from socialist media. All journalists are jailed based on the "anti-terror law."

Reporters Without Borders lists Turkey as 151st out of 180 countries in its 2016 World Press Freedom Index. According to Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey is the country with the highest number of jailed journalists and one in every three jailed journalist in the world is in Turkey.

AKP has been receiving intense criticism due to the number of jailed journalists for the last five years. International and national journalism organizations, the EU, European Parliament, the Council of Europe, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations have been criticizing the government for jailling journalists; media freedom and freedom of speech violations. European Court of Human Rights has convicted Turkey for long detentions of journalists for many times.

As part of the solidarity started to bring attention to the pressure faced by Özgür Gündem daily, 56 "guest editor in chiefs" worked with the daily between 3 May - 7 August 2016. The daily was shut down by decrees declared under the state of emergency, however out of the 56 guest editors 50 faced investigation. 36 of these investigations turned into cases and the editors are being on trial based on claims of "terror propaganda."


Media Ownership Key to Business 


In 2013, telephone conversations allegedly between media owner, media executives and government officials were leaked. These leaks pointed to a high degree of government/state intervention in the media. According to critical media academics, tenders and various "support" are given to business groups that do not criticize the government.

TMSF, which manages the banking system of Turkey, has played a major role in changing the large companies within the media sector, by transferring the companies it held to pro-AKP business people.

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