Turkey | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Constitutional provisions for freedom of the press and of expression exist but are only partially upheld in practice. Although many positive reforms have been passed in recent years in preparation for membership in the European Union-most significantly a new press code in 2004, which mandates heavy fines instead of prison sentences for some press crimes, permits noncitizens to own periodicals and serve as editors, protects against disclosure of sources, and prevents authorities from closing publications or hindering distribution-implementation appeared to lag in 2005 in favor of more restrictive measures. The revised penal code passed in September 2004 was scheduled to enter into force on April 1, 2005. However, implementation was delayed in response to protests by journalists in March over provisions that were too broad and that singled out journalists for more severe punishment than others committing the same crime. The code ultimately went into force in June after some revisions. Press groups continued to denounce the new code because provisions remained that could send journalists to prison, in contradiction of the 2004 press code, for crimes such as stating that genocide was committed against the Armenians in 1915, instigating hatred in one part of the population against another (used against journalists who write about the Kurdish population), or calling for the removal of Turkish troops from Cyprus. Media also can face large fines. Today, prosecutions and in particular convictions are less common than previously but still can drag on for months.

The Supreme Council of Radio and Television (RTUK), whose members are elected by the Parliament, has the authority to sanction broadcasters if they are not in compliance with the law or its expansive broadcasting principles. It is frequently subject to political pressure. Censorship is not explicit, but self-censorship occurs among editors and journalists, who are concerned about violating the many legal restrictions. Often, the courts rule against journalists, who continue to be jailed and face huge fines for various press offenses. Rights groups estimated that 60 Turkish writers, publishers, and journalists were facing prosecution or incarceration in 2005. In February, an Austrian journalist who has covered the cases of political prisoners was jailed temporarily for belonging to a terrorist organization that she had often reported on; she was ultimately acquitted for lack of evidence. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched defamation suits against several members of the media in 2005, including cartoonists who depicted him. Most prominently, Orhan Pamuk, an internationally renowned Turkish author, went before a court in December for comments he made to a Swiss newspaper earlier in the year; the judge postponed the trial until 2006. Pamuk's views on the mass killings of Armenians by Turks in 1915 have resulted in death threats and protests against him.

Turkey's broadcast media are well developed, with hundreds of private television channels, including cable and satellite, as well as commercial radio stations. State television and radio provide limited broadcasting in minority languages, including Kurdish. This is a major step forward for freedom of expression, although critics say that the broadcasts are too restricted and quality is poor. Media are highly concentrated in a few private conglomerates, which subtly pressure their editors and journalists to refrain from reporting that will harm their business interests. This could include avoiding criticism of the government or potential advertisers, both of which could have contracts with other arms of the companies. The quality of Turkish media is low, but independent domestic and foreign print media are able to provide diverse views, including criticism of the government and its policies. An estimated 13 percent of the Turkish population was able to access the internet in 2005, and the government refrains from restricting the internet beyond the same censorship policies that it applies to other media.