A recent report by a Turkish think tank has expressed concerns over restrictions on media freedom in Turkey, recommending that authorities improve laws governing the media.
The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV) proposed policy prescriptions for a more free and independent media in Turkey in a new report it released on Thursday. The report is part of the European Commission's 7th Framework Program, which was conducted in 14 European countries.
Authored by TESEV's Dilek Kurban and Ceren Sozeri from Galatasaray University, the report says that legal amendments regarding media take place as a result of a centralized and bureaucratic process where priorities are set by the executive branch of the government.
The report noted that the media regulatory agencies suffer from lack of ideological and institutional independence from the state and that they have extremely broad enforcement powers. It added that these agencies abuse these powers by sanctioning the media and blocking access to the Internet on grounds of “general morality,” “the protection of the family” and “the national and moral values of society.”
The report acknowledged that the laws governing media content have improved due to Ankara's membership bid with the European Union but said these laws still contain restrictions on freedom of expression and media freedom.
It said that the judiciary's restrictive interpretation of these laws results in the prosecution and imprisonment of a high number of journalists for their news coverage on sensitive political issues. It added that the judgments delivered by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerning media freedom are routinely disregarded by regulatory agencies, the government and the judiciary.
The report urged the government, Parliament and media regulatory agencies to make efforts for the democratization of media policy-making processes and to ensure safeguarding of the independence of media regulatory agencies. It also asked Turkish authorities to protect media freedom and freedom of expression. The report said the government, Parliament and media regulatory agencies should also work to prevent unfair competition in the media market.