Turkish government celebrates ‘bad journalism’ - analysis

Turkey, the world’s top jailer of journalists, celebrates and rewards bad journalism which prioritised official narratives of events over realities, Cinar Kiper, a Vancouver-based Turkish journalist, said in the Globe and Mail on Friday.

Turkey ranks 159 out of 180 countries according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF)‘s press freedom index. Hundreds of journalists have been imprisoned for doing their jobs, while, according to the latest figures of the Journalists’ Union of Turkey, 74 journalists were sentenced to a total of 256 years in prison over the last year.

Moreover, an estimated 90 percent of the Turkish media is owned by businessmen or companies with close ties to the government, while a large portion of Turkey’s distribution networks and a massive 73 percent of online media are also owned by companies with political affiliations.

“Turkey ensures that good journalism simply isn’t worth it. But, on the flip side, it also ensures bad journalism is celebrated and rewarded,” said Kiper, explaining the current state of media in Turkey.

Turkey doesn’t oppose journalism on principle, but the official narrative comes first, according to Kiper. Sometimes this official narrative can be preserved with good journalism, but in other cases, bad journalism does the job, the journalist said.

“A reporter who exclusively sticks to stories that make Turkey look good will earn a steady pay cheque, and one who rises to the rank of opinion leader will even be very generously compensated,” Kiper said.

Yet, the Turkish government’ sometimes support press freedom for political reasons like it was the case last year after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. Turkey also offers a safe environment for in Arab exiles in Turkey, who run media outlets critical of regimes Turkey also opposes, Kiper said.