ANKARA: Freedom Of Press Debated In Bozcaada


Turkish Daily News
July 21 2008

If you are a national journalist in Turkey, your chief worry is
the heavy hand of press law. If you work for a local newspaper,
the lament is the heavy hand of the very few advertisers whose clout
keeps scribes in line.

Such was the summary of complaints among journalists of both big
press outlets and small who gathered Friday at a workshop on the
Aegean island of Bozcaada to debate the meaning and state of freedom
of the press and speech in Turkey.

Economic difficulties constrain local newspapers’ freedom, while
media as a whole is trying to continue its work with restrictions
on freedom of press and speech, said journalists and some of their
lawyers who were also in attendance.

Freedom of press should be regarded as the freedom of people to receive
news, said Turgay Olcayto, the vice president of Turkey Journalists’
Community, or TGC, at the start of the workshop that was organized by
the Press Institute Association. Journalists debated Article 301 of the
Turkish penal code, which has been heavily criticized for restricting
freedom of speech. Prominent Turkish Armenian journalist Hrant Dink,
who was assassinated in 2007 was convicted under Article 301 for
insulting Turkishness. The article has been amended and "insulting
Turkishness" has been changed to "insulting the Turkish nation." What
is important is that society digests the law, said lawyer Turgut Kazan
from the Istanbul Bar, otherwise an article from any law can be found
to convict people. Yucel DöÅ~_emeci, another lawyer from the Istanbul
Bar said the problem about Article 301 is about implementation.

Local media in difficulties

Representatives of local media in nearby western city of Canakkale,
which has seven weekly and five daily newspapers shared their problems
at the meeting. Aynur Narler, from Canakkale Olay newspaper said
political pressure, the problem of finding educated personnel, and
economic problems make it difficult for local media. It becomes easy
to corner [a newspaper] in the local domain, said IÅ~_ık Narler, the
editor-in-chief of the newspaper. Education of newspaper personnel
is another critical problem for local media, said Ä°lker YurttaÅ~_,
the owner of Kalem newspaper. Support to local media for training
personnel was discussed as well. However, Omer Faruk Mutan, the
head of Health Employees Trade Union’s, or SES, Canakkale branch,
criticized local media owners for not acting together. Local media
members emphasized as well that they would face serious financial
problems in the near future if a new law ends state institutions’
obligation to announce public bids via local papers.

Apoyevmatini needs money to survive

Apoyevmatini, an 84-year-old Greek language local newspaper in Istanbul
is facing financial difficulties like its other local counterparts. The
archives of the newspaper face the danger of disappearing, said Mihail
Vasiliadis, the editor-in-chief of the newspaper. He is trying to
publish the newspaper by himself without any other employee at the
paper. "We need 35,000 euros to take photographs of the old issues
and make a digital archive," Vasiliadis said. The newspaper is an
extremely significant historic source for the Greek community in
Turkey. Vasiliadis highlighted that Apoyevmatini has not been able
to receive the announcements of public bids for 84 years, which would
help the paper survive.