15 December 2016
10 November 2016 By Marius Dragomir
Many believe the Internet equals freedom of information. Recently, that has been less and less the case.
Maung Saung Kha, a 23-year old poet from Myanmar, was relieved last May to hear that he would be released from prison. On 24 May 2016, Mr Saung Kha was sentenced to six months in jail for defaming Myanmar’s former president Thein Sein, but because he had already spent six months behind bars, he was freed the same day.
His crime: posting a poem on Facebook in which a newlywed was baffled to see a tattoo featuring Myanmar’s former president on her husband’s genitals. The husband in the poem was Mr Saung Kha. In other parts of the world, such a poem would trigger a smile. But in Myanmar, authorities took this seriously. Using provisions on defamation from the telecommunications law, they justified imprisonment of the young bard in the Insein jail near Yangon, Myanmar’s capital city.
27 October 2016 By Marius Dragomir
After a decade of manipulations that ensure a cozy relationship between the press and the president, Erdogan is now overseeing a harsh crackdown that is closing media outlets and putting journalists in prison.
Last August, the Turkish government shut down Ozgur Gundem, a Kurdish daily newspaper. Police raided the newspaper’s headquarters and arrested more than 20 journalists. The closure was ordered by an Istanbul court, which found the newspaper was a “mouthpiece” of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in the country.
The closure of Ozgur Gundem is only a small part of the Turkish government’s clampdown on media and journalism in the country, following the failed military coup in mid-July 2016.
11 August 2016
Mighty, politically well-connected oligarchs are in the mood for retail therapy, and their targets are media outlets. Their influence over journalism has begun to reach worrying levels.
Jack Ma of Chinese giant Alibaba, Rupert Murdoch of News Corp, Delyan Peevski from the tobacco maker Bulgartabak, Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris and Saudi prince Al-Waleed are all completely different businessmen. They look totally unalike and live in different places. One is obese, another one is skinny. One hails from Sofia, another one from Cairo. Their tastes are dissimilar.
But they also have some things in common: an unwonted wealth, close links with political power and a firm grip on much of the world’s media.
The issue of ownership concentration in the media is not new. It goes back to the 1980s and 1990s when some of the now old media moguls began to build their holdings. The rise of disrupting internet behemoths in the past decade or so was expected to dent into their power. It didn’t.
5 June 2016 By Marius Dragomir
The news media industry has been faced with a profound crisis for more than a decade now, and peoples' dwindling trust in journalists has much to do with it.
May was a nightmarish month for the 500 staff of Mega, the oldest privately owned channel in Greece, as the station was faced with closure following mounting debts, mostly to banks. In the end, the three families that control the channel - Psiharis, Bobolas and Vardinogiannis - agreed to increase Mega’s capital to save the channel from bankruptcy.
But the Mega crisis is illustrative of a much bigger problem that Greek journalism has been facing for years: the collusion between media and politics. Most of the country’s mainstream media was established by businessmen merely as PR channels for their other companies. Politicians don’t touch them as they enjoy the positive coverage; and owners fund the media through profits made in other companies.
It doesn’t come as a surprise, then, to see Greece at the bottom of the heap when it comes to trust in news organizations and journalists. Only one in five trust the news in Greece and a paltry 11% trust journalists, according to a survey run in 26 countries worldwide by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism (RISJ).
Greece is not alone. Journalism has a growing trust problem in many other places.
17 May 2016 By Marius Dragomir
The integrity and independence of journalism is in dire straits in eastern Europe. The preferential distribution of state advertising has had to do with much of this.
Celebrating 175 years of existence last year, Turkey’s leading telecom provider, Turk Telekom, organized a glamorous reception in Ankara, the nation’s capital city, attended by many of the country’s bigwigs. Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan came in person to congratulate the telco’s chairman Mohammed Hariri for the company’s “exceptional service” to Turkey.
But the party was only a sprinkling in the company’s anniversary budget. On top of it, and other things, Turk Telekom splurged in 2014 on a massive advertising campaign ballyhooing its then upcoming anniversary. However, this spending spree turned out to be a rather clever political maneuver instead of a usual corporate stint. Data from Nielsen Company AdEx, which monitors ad spending in Turkey, show that Turk Telekom doled out some US$ 63m to 16 pro-government media outlets. Opposition newspapers such as Zaman, BirGun or Cumhuriyet didn’t receive a dime.
16 November 2015 By Asli Tunc
After the snap elections on 1 November 2015 when the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in Turkey capturing 317 seats in the 550-member Turkish legislature, an increase of 59 deputies which results in AKP holding the absolute majority, the concerns over media freedom in Turkey have increased. A lot had changed in five months since the last election in June.
We witnessed bombings in Ankara that killed 109 people and injured more than 400. The refugee crisis became a major issue as Turkey currently hosts more than 2.5 million Syrians fleeing the four-and-a-half year conflict in their country.
This chaos actually helped AKP increase its public support. Even the European Commission (EC) decided to withhold the Turkey Progress Report until after 1 November 2015 election; it is a document which contains serious criticisms on the Turkish government’s violations of human rights, freedom of the press and other moves that contradict Copenhagen criteria, the fundamental principles for joining the EU, like rule of law and protection and respect for minorities.