In place of hard-hitting watchdog reporting, the result is self-censorship. Some journalists say 30 percent to 40 percent of their reports are never published.
“Flattery is the key thing in Turkish media,” Mert told McClatchy. “It has never been as bad as it is now.”
Major events go undiscussed. Is there a risk of blowback from allowing Islamist extremists to cross into Syria and join al Qaida-related fighters? “It’s a huge story. It should be on the front page every day,” Zaman told McClatchy. But it goes untouched.
Why Turkish government support for the Syrian rebels has failed to topple President Bashar Assad is another topic that is not addressed. “In Turkey, if you criticize the policy, they label you as pro-Assad,” Zaman said.
And strangely for a country that aspires to be a regional leader, Turkish media barely covers the war in Syria, relying instead on international news agencies.
Are there any contracting scandals or government corruption in Turkey? You’d hardly know from reading the mainstream media.
And what’s entailed in the deal between Turkey’s national intelligence agency and Ocalan, a captive for 14 years, leading him to order the withdrawal of the PKK armed forces from Turkey? The topic is barely mentioned. Then there’s the related subject that has many Turks’ heads spinning: How can the PKK go from being a terrorist group to a trusted negotiating partner so quickly?
Some of the answers – or at least the questions – could have been provided by the likes of Mustafa Gokkilic, a specialist on Kurdish issues. He was one of few Turkish journalists to go to the scene in late summer 2012 when the PKK mounted a major operation in the mainly Kurdish town of Semdinli, near the Iraqi border. But in late March he was fired without explanation from his job as a reporter for Haberturk TV.
The Committee to Protect Journalists generated a storm of reaction last year when it said Turkey had jailed 61 journalists in direct connection with their work. The Turkish Justice Ministry disputed CPJ’s tally, saying that some of those convicted had committed “grave crimes such as membership of an armed terror organization, kidnapping, possession of unlicensed weapons and dangerous substances, bombing and killing.”
The Justice Ministry’s claims underscored harsh laws that ascribe membership in a terrorist organization to anyone who writes an article promoting its goals.
A McClatchy analysis of the Committee to Protect Journalists’ list and government indictments shows that 52 of the 61 indicted or imprisoned for their writing or reporting report for Kurdish news outlets, and most appear to have a connection with the PKK through an affiliated “popular front” organization, the Union of Communities in Kurdistan.
But many of the cases are paper thin, said Dunya Mijatovic, a Bosnian who is the representative for freedom of the media of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. “There were cases of people simply reporting things connected with the PKK,” she said.
The other nine cases involved charges growing out of Ergenekon, one of several mammoth cases alleging a military conspiracy to overthrow the elected civil government. But some of those cases appear to be completely baseless – such as the charge against reporter Ahmet Sik that two books he wrote exposing the conspiracy made him a part of it.