Turkish Community in Vienna Criticizes Türkiye's Media Freedom on International Press Freedom Day

PeopleOther ♦ Published: May 3, 2023; 22:18 ♦ (Vindobona)

As the world marks International Press Freedom Day on May 3, Austria's media landscape faces a serious threat to its diversity, despite slight improvements in the Press Freedom Index. Meanwhile, Türkiye's media freedom is in a dire state, with journalists and opposition voices facing increasing pressure and imprisonment under Erdogan's AKP government, according to the Turkish Cultural Community in Austria (TKG).

The Turkish community in Vienna criticizes developments that threaten media freedom in Türkiye and Austria. / Picture: © Turkish and Austrian crossed flags by Vindobona

Today, International Press Freedom Day is observed, and the word "International" should be taken very seriously. While Austria has slightly improved its ranking in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and now ranks 29th out of 180 countries, the warning is clear that the media diversity in Austria is under severe threat. Chief editors of local print media and publishers have issued a joint warning against the fatal media policy of the federal government, and the planned law must be corrected to protect journalism and media diversity in Austria.

Meanwhile, the situation in Türkiye is even worse. People from almost all social strata are being prosecuted and arrested by Erdogan's AKP government for expressing their critical opinions, with journalists being particularly vulnerable. The AKP government has changed the capital structure of mainstream media; now more than 90 percent is owned by pro-government capital, according to TKG. Mainstream media in Turkey serves more to obscure the truth through deep fake news than to report factual news. More than 600 journalists have been arrested in Turkey in the past six years. Everything in Erdogan's AKP-Türkiye smells like "McCarthyism", according to TKG. The arrests are further evidence that the AKP government has silenced all oppositional liberal media and individuals with McCarthy methods step by step.

Turkey ranks 153rd out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). This number indicates where the country stands in terms of press and freedom of expression. Reporters Without Borders has summarized how the Turkish government uses physical violence, arrests, and digital surveillance to pressure journalists and prevent critical reporting on state failure after the devastating earthquake in the Turkish-Syrian border region on February 6, 2023.

TKG chairman Birol Kilic demands "freedom of thought" in Türkiye: "For us, freedom of thought is the freedom of thinking, enlightenment, especially in ideological, political matters, and particularly against corruption and oppression. Today, on May 3, International Press Freedom Day, free Turkish journalists expect solidarity, not international appeasement. The AKP-Erdogan government did not want and does not want to have a self-confident secular, free, modern bourgeoisie-middle class, which existed and is growing, in Turkey. We all need freedom of thought, media diversity, and press freedom for democratic participation and action. This is what we want on May 3, not only for Türkiye but also for Austria."

The media in Türkiye face numerous challenges, including government censorship and control, intimidation, and physical attacks. The situation for journalists in Turkey has become so dire that many have fled the country, while others face ongoing harassment and detention, according to Kilic. Despite international calls for reform, the Turkish government continues to suppress free speech and freedom of the press, resulting in a lack of media diversity and a dangerous environment for journalists, according to TKG.

Turkish Cultural Community in Austria