President Erdoğan says Turkish media freer today than in previous decades

Photo by Adem ALTAN / AFP

Turkish media is freer today than in the ’70s, ’80s or ’90s, Turkish president and head of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Wednesday, according to Turkish media.

Speaking at the 7th Anatolian Media Awards ceremony at the presidential palace, Erdoğan claimed Turkey has made progress in terms of “press ethics” and “press freedom” over the past 20 years during AKP rule, adding that the media has gained a more independent, pluralistic and rich structure in the last two decades.

Erdoğan defended the requirements of the new “disinformation law,” stating that the law “makes it easier to distinguish between those who actually engage in journalism and those who are ‘charlatans under the guise of journalism’.”

The Turkish Parliament passed the law in early October after it was proposed by the ruling AKP. It went into effect on October 18 when it was approved by President Erdoğan.

The law makes “disseminating false information” a criminal offense, with prison sentences of between one and three years. If a person conceals their identity while spreading misinformation, those sentences can be increased by half, the law says, although it doesn’t specifically define false information.

The law also targets social media platforms by making them liable for the content posted by their users, which according to the group, further reduces the space for people to freely express their ideas and opinions.

The Anatolian Media Awards are organized by the Anatolian Publishers Association (AYD) and given to journalists or outlets in various categories in the media sector at the end of each year.

The awards have been criticized for a lack of independence from the government and for bias.

Rights groups routinely accuse the Turkish government of trying to keep the press under control by imprisoning journalists, closing down media outlets, overseeing the purchase of media brands by pro-government conglomerates and using the regulatory authorities to exert financial pressure, especially after President Erdoğan survived a failed coup in July 2016.

Turkey, which is among the top jailers of journalists in the world, was ranked 149th among 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2022 World Press Freedom Index, released in May of last year.

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