Currency crisis hits publishing industry in Turkey

A sharp decline in the value of the Turkish lira has led to a crisis in the publishing sector since Turkey imports almost all of its newsprint and book paper, Deutsche Welle (DW) Turkey reported on Friday.

Publishers are not only faced with the problem of affording imported paper products but also with difficulties arising from high taxes and royalties that are based on exchange rates. Many are having trouble keeping their businesses afloat, according to the report.

Speaking to the agency, head of the Turkish Publishers’ Union Kenan Kocatürk pointed out that Turkey mainly produces high-grade paper pulp, which accounts for only 3 percent of the market. As a result, the country mostly relies on imported paper for newspaper and book printing.

Emphasizing that the government should support the publishing sector, Kocatürk suggested that the value-added tax (VAT) on books might be reduced to 1 percent as a symbolic gesture.

“The publishing sector operates based on fixed-term contracts, whereas taxes on books that are distributed are paid immediately. This situation can also be changed,” Kocatürk said.

A publishing house manager who spoke to the agency also underlined that almost all inputs in the business are imported, which sometimes causes costs to increase to the point of wiping out any profit.

Drawing attention to the fact that the publishing industry has a rather small profit margin, he claimed that there is no profit if they print only a couple of thousand copies of a book.

In addition, translated books make up roughly half of the books published in Turkey and the copyright payments for these books are calculated on the basis of exchange rates.

“Sizeable differences have occurred between the time when contracts were made and when we actually make the payment. This leads to an additional loss. How can you publish books under these circumstances?” claimed the manager.

Adding that publishing houses are now printing fewer books and that some have even stopped their activities entirely, he warned that some of the enterprises might go out of business.

Another concern is that publishing houses might focus their attention on books that are more likely to sell and as a result popularity would push aside quality, in which case up and coming writers would have a harder time getting their books published. All this points to cultural decay and a further deterioration of the press environment in Turkey.

On the other hand, newspapers are also having a rough time due to the turmoil in the economy. The Aydınlık newspaper, which is known to have an editorial line close to the ultranationalist Homeland Party (VP), announced to its readers on Aug. 21 that it would halt publishing for three days as a result of increased costs and the scarcity of paper stock.

In July, one of the biggest Turkish mainstream newspapers, Habertürk, also discontinued its print edition, citing economic reasons.

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of August 15, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 145 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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