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The Media In Turkey May Come Under More Restrictions


The government of Turkey is preparing more attacks on the free media. A presidential spokesman says Turkey needs to rein in media outlets that receive funding from abroad in order to protect the government against hostile foreign powers. Turkish journalists see another effort to stifle the few independent media outlets that remain. Here's NPR's Peter Kenyon.

PETER KENYON, BYLINE: What exactly the government has in mind isn't clear as the new media regulations have yet to be completed. But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's communications chief says Turkey is closely following the news that an American nonprofit foundation is funding some Turkish media. Communications Director Fahrettin Altun issued a statement saying new regulations are needed, quote, "to protect Turkey's democracy," adding that the government will not, quote, "allow fifth column activities under new guises." Turkish journalist Nazan Ozcan says in her opinion, this has nothing to do with protecting Turkey's democracy and everything to do with stifling dissenting opinions in the small number of independent media outlets left in Turkey.

NAZAN OZCAN: At the end of the day, we can say that 90% of media is under control now. And we have only 10%, which is, let's say, independent media.

KENYON: Ozcan works for Bianet, one of the media companies that would be affected by the new regulations. She stresses that the targeted outlets are independent, not anti-government.

OZCAN: We are not opposed anything. We are with the truth because if people get the truth and they get the information, they decide accordingly. That's why media is important. So they want to control the remaining part of the media.

KENYON: Erol Onderoglu, the turkey representative for Reporters Without Borders, says the advent of online news channels alarmed the government because the Internet made it much easier to look beyond the mainstream Turkish media in search of more independent voices.

EROL ONDEROGLU: So I can say that the sources of reliable information has raised over the last five years. And I think that the government is more disturbed on the fact that they couldn't crack down entirely on critical media.

KENYON: Journalist Nazan Ozcan says she doesn't think this talk of new media regulations is just a threat. She says it's entirely possible that the government is preparing to put new restrictions in place. But she doesn't see journalists backing down.

OZCAN: We will continue doing our job. We don't know what will happen. I mean, if we are journalists, we will do our job at the best way. We will continue. I don't know what price we will pay. But if there is a price, we will pay. I mean, this is what we know. Journalism, we will continue.

KENYON: Meanwhile, the government continues to demonstrate that it can pressure the media even without the promised new regulations. Turkey's media watchdog agency fined a TV channel after one of its reporters used the word nightmare while reporting on the recent forest fires that swept through parts of Turkey.

Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.


Peter Kenyon is NPR's international correspondent based in Istanbul, Turkey.