Yavuz Baydar had been independent news ombudsman for Turkish Sabah daily for almost 10 years when he was sacked for criticizing the lack of coverage and the Turkish government’s violent reaction to the protests held at Gezi Park in July 2013.
The “media blackouts” – media channels broadcasting documentaries about penguins or schizophrenia instead of reporting about the events at Gezi park – forced the Turkish public to acknowledge what had so far previously only been recognized by journalists, editors and people on the inside of news reporting: During an event hosted by FNF Brussels and moderated by Alexander Graf Lambsdorff MEP, Freedom Thinker Yavuz Baydar explained how the “unholy relationship between politics and media owners has led to the collapse of media credibility in Turkey.”
In a well-known New York Times Article, which Sabah daily cited as grounds for his termination, Baydar wrote that “the protests that convulsed Istanbul and other Turkish cities last month exposed […] the shameful role of Turkey’s media conglomerates in subverting press freedom.” Even media outlets that had never been ideologically close to the AKP have become increasingly government-sympathetic, due to a pervasive system of corruption, intimidation and appointment of Erdogan-loyal personnel. The situation has been further aggravated by systematic sackings, closing of foreign offices, such as those in Brussels and “the replacement of independent columnists with aggressive, pro-government ones”. Baydar warns that the “purge of human resources and dismantling of professional journalism as Erdogan-loyal journalists are injected on direct order” threaten not only the values of journalism but undermine freedom of expression.
FNF’s mission as a liberal foundation is to raise public awareness of the important role of a free press in a democratic society. FNF Turkey is proud to support a group of journalists, who through their firing have become unfit for hire by other media outlets who wish to stay in Erdogan’s favors. These independent journalists have made the best out of their “Berufsverbot” by launching P.24 a news platform dedicated to the training and reemployment of sacked peers, independently funded and with a strong focus on corruption reporting.
To follow the development of the situation in Turkey, read Yavuz Baydar’s column in Today’s Zaman and follow our Freedom thinker on Twitter: @yavuzbaydar.