Turkish journalists are battling for both life and living: Report

The report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) noted that around 12,000 journalists are unemployed and face wage erosion. Turkish journalists have had at least 1547 years of jail time since 2016

Journalism is one of the most important pillars of democracy. But in Turkey, journalists are struggling to survive even financially.

The report by the Turkish Journalists Association (TGC) noted that around 12,000 journalists are unemployed and face wage erosion. Hundreds of media outlets have shut their operations due to political and economic pressure.

The journalists are trying to survive with salaries as low as bare minimum wages that have pushed them to poverty levels. Apart from that, around 37 Turkish journalists are imprisoned.

The pain of censorship for Turkish journalists

International Press Institute (IPI) has said that several methods, including judicial harassment, disproportionate laws, online attacks and smear campaigns, regulatory fines, and advertising and broadcast bans, were used by the government to silence Turkish journalists. In a report, they said that one of the prime methods used was censorship and banning media outlets for violating the norms.

In 2021, the state authorities have systematically imposed censorship and bans on media who covered topics that were sensitive and disliked by the government. For example, the government had targeted television networks and newspapers that covered Turkey’s southwest wildfires in summers. Broadcasters were banned, and journalists were banned for critical reporting. “Similar censorship was seen in response to other topics ranging from the currency crisis to public tenders to corruption allegations implicating government officials,” the IPI report quoted.

Towards the end of 2021, the Turkish government had announced plans to draft a “fake news and disinformation” law to criminalize the dissemination of “disinformation” in all offline and online platforms. It was a move to further bottle the press freedom and kill independent journalism. Journalists in Turkey have had at least 1547 years of jail time since 2016.

The pile of blocks and ban on media in Turkey

The Engelli Web Turkey 2020 report by the Freedom of Expression Association (IFÖD) has noted that local authorities blocked at least 58,809 URLs and domain names in 2020. Around 89% of blocking orders were issued by the Information and Communication Technologies Authority in the name of ‘administrative measures’.

Most of them did not even wait for a local court verdict. IFÖD said that 5,645 URLs about news content were blocked by the court in 2020. The Radio and Television High Council, the Turkish broadcast regulator, issued 1,503 administrative fines to TV broadcasters in 2020, up by 21% on year.

Similarly, the Press Advertising Agency, which distributes public ads to the newspapers has imposed an overall 572 days’ worth of ad bans due to alleged ‘ethics violations’, IPI noted in the report. It has caused massive damage to the financial health of the newspapers.

Turkish journalists are battling for both life and living: Report
Source: Balkan Insight

The detrimental financial health of journalists

Due to the heavy censorship and bans, the ailing media outlets could not pay their reporters and editors. For January 2021, as per Kariyer.net, a job website in Turkey, the highest monthly salary of a correspondent was 8,410 lira ($645.88). The average salary of a reporter is as low as 4,110 lira ($315.64).

Among others, the prime concern is – Turkish journalists sign contracts under the Labour Law, not Press Labour Law. It causes a significant loss of rights for them. According to the TGC, the most common form of contract between journalists and media outlets are indefinite term and fixed-term contracts under the Labour Law and the copyright contract.

“A journalist working under a copyright contract is excluded from the Press Labour Law. The most important aspect of this is that their social security rights are restricted, and they work without insurance,” the report said.

“When I first started my profession, despite my two years of experience, I was earning four times the minimum wage. I’ve been working for 22 years, and now I am getting 1.5 times the minimum wage. In the past, journalists were transferred between newspapers, and wages would increase. Now that many media outlets are closed, we don’t have such a chance,” a 39-year old male journalist said.

Also, the Turkish journalists receive their salary as salary + royalty. It causes significant reductions in their pension.

Turkish journalists are getting poorer day by day

In addition to the loss of rights due to the contracts, their wages were also eroded due to the economic crisis. According to the TURKSTAT Consumer Price Index (CPI), a reporter who started with 3,000 lira ($230.40) in January 2019 should earn a salary of approximately 4,560 lira ($350.20) in November 2021 to maintain the same standard of living, a 52% increase, as per the TUIK inflation calculations.

However, the inflation calculations by TURKSTAT do not reflect real price increases. As per the Inflation Research Group (ENAG) data, the annual consumer prices increased by 58.65% in November 2021. TURKSTAT has said that it increased by 21.31% for the same period.

“I am a single mother. I have been a journalist for 28 years. My rent is 2,600 lira ($199.68), my monthly fixed expense is 3,800 lira. I have loan debts. The total of these is 1,750 lira ($134.40). I have a college-going son. I received 8,000 lira ($614.39) overall monthly, including my pension and job. Due to the high exchange rate and inflation, I cannot find the opportunity to make a living. I’m trying to end the month with a credit card. Money has no value because of inflation,” a 47-year old female journalist has said in the TGC report.

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