Rome / Ankara, November 29, 2021
by Giuseppe Jacobini, Secretary-General, AEJ-Italy
The following article is by the AEJ’s man in Ankara, Prof. Dr L. Doğan Tiliç , columnist of the Istanbul daily BirGün. It was written for the AEJ international’s recent general assembly, translated into Italian, and published on the front page of Il Giornale Europeo, of which I am the editor.
by L. Doğan Tiliç, Ankara
Freedom of the press is under serious threat in Turkey. Journalists are still being harassed, arrested, kidnapped, arbitrarily detained, and tortured.
The current situation in Turkey is clear: top priority is the economy, while our people are pushed towards living into poverty and are condemned to survive. If you can call that life.
All the ensuing political debate is shaped by this basic situation …. elections, electoral alliances, debates on the establishment of a new republic… etc.
Of necessity, I am going to inform you about a subject that will make a difference to all these topics of discussion. Yesterday, the General Assembly of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), of which I am a member of the international board and honorary vice-president, met all day.
Let me first quote a sentence from the annual report of the Secretary-General of the AEJ, Edward Steen, to give an idea of the way Turkey is seen from the outside and through the eyes of European journalists: Turkey is immune to the decisions of the Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
2020-2021 were years in which the problems of journalism worldwide were further aggravated by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was observed that journalism has been ‘strengthened’ and that ‘real’ journalism was what ‘makes a difference’ in countries with administrations like the Trumps, Orbáns, and Erdoğans, who distort reality.
The question of what is ‘true journalism’ is a long debate, but not for us! This is what ‘true’ journalism means: it is the difference between quoting exactly what the executive of the ruling party says – the depreciation of the Turkish lira was officially explained by the exchange rate of the Japanese yen against the US dollar – and calling this explanation into question.The difference is a big one!
Another issue that became even more evident during the pandemic was that of fake news, which has come to dominate social media. Opposition to vaccinations, based on the spread of conspiracy theories and emotional news as opposed to scientific data, also feeds on the media’s ignorance of scientific research.
It is a more general problem for journalism that false information is spread through different channels, while complaints about freedom of expression, police violence against journalists and suppression of the media, come from countries among which we in Turkey top the list.
Well, what are we to do in the face of a situation that threatens our profession, the right of citizens to be informed about our profession, and democracies all over the world?
So get organised and get educated
Our first answer is to organise ourselves. For what we call ‘real journalism’, we have to develop and strengthen our regional and international organisations, first at national level, then beyond national borders.
Almost everywhere, the decline in the number of professional role models is recognised as a concern. In this situation, the education of young journalists, both in and out of school, becomes ever more important. We hope to take the first steps towards honest and independent journalism by encouraging and developing critical thinking ‘in the classroom’.
Within this framework, the AEJ also regards press freedom, the protection and development of journalists and their rights, as its priorities. While emphasising professional ethics in a world where trust in journalism is increasingly fragile, the AEJ believes that ‘solution-seeking journalism’ can raise interest and trust, in the media.
Pushing governments to make ‘green budgets’ and trying to influence EU economic decisions in a ‘green’ direction are among the other priorities of the Association of European Journalists.
Real journalism is not the current practice of praising what is presented to us. The job is to look underneath. The ability to do this makes a difference to every aspect of our work.
Turkish journalist, sociologist, and university professor, Prof Dr Tilic spent more than three years in prison after the 1980 military coup. Active in national and international journalists’ organisations, he studied sociology, the sociology of communication, and journalism in various Turkish universities and reported from conflict zones including Afghanistan, Iraq, and Jugoslavia. He has published many academic articles and six books and won several national and international journalism awards. One of these was the UNESCO International Press Freedom Award from the University of Malaga in 2016 and he was awarded the Spanish Order of Civil Merit in 2020. He is an active reporter on Turkey for the Spanish news agency EFE and writes a column for the Turkish daily BirGün.