Erdogan: Turkey advanced a level in press freedom in 20 years
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said within the last 20 years, Turkey has advanced a level in press freedom and morality, along with democracy.
“Anyone who is objective will agree that our media has a more independent, pluralistic and richer structure today. Turkish media in 2023 is much freer than it was in 1990s, 1980s and 1970s,” Erdogan said, during a media awards ceremony held in capital Ankara on Wednesday.
Erdogan said everyone in the country can write and tell whatever they want as long as they do not praise terrorism, incite violence or spread disinformation.
“The so-called democracy, human rights and press freedom reports prepared on ‘orders’ about Turkey will not change this fact,” he said.
Turkey who welcomed the new year with a total of 87 journalists in prison, has been listed among the "worst offenders" of press freedom in the world in 2022 after Iran, China and Myanmar, in a report by the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).
According to Erdogan, In Turkey, some are trying to turn the media into a tool of domination over the elected government.
“Especially during the coup times, a significant part of the Turkish media preferred to be the voice of the anti-democratic power centers,
instead of being the voice of the people,” he said.
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has shut down around 200 news outlets and jailed hundreds of journalists on terrorism charges as part of a crackdown intensified on opposition media since a failed coup of July 2016. In addition to legal cases, Turkey also sought to target independent media outlets with financial penalties.
"We saw newspapers and hitmen disguised as journalists who lost their balance to the point of calling the country's elected prime minister a 'civil dictator',” Erdogan said.
However, “As we always say, we have not come to these days only by challenging putschists, gangsters and terrorist organizations. At the same time, we have fought with dirty headlines targeting ourselves, our cause, our party and the national will,” he said.
According to a January 2022 report by Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), during Erdogan’s presidency, over 160,000 people have been investigated for “insulting the president” and around 13,000 have been convicted of the crime.
Erdogan also blamed the Western countries of double standards when it comes to Turkey.
“None of them is concerned with the freedom of the press, human rights or democracy. Their only concern is to keep their own crooked system alive and to block the way of countries like Turkey that put a stick in their wheels, by using all kinds of tools, lies and slander,” he said.
“But you will no longer be able to block Turkey's path. This is not the old Turkey. Now there is the new Turkey", Erdogan said.
Also criticizing the social media, Erdogan said that in addition to contributing to the rapid circulation of information, this platform also paved the way for all kinds of lies, slander and ugliness.
“Fake news has become one of the elements that threaten not only people but also today's democracies. Unfortunately, this disease has also affected the structures that operate as media organizations,” he said.
In October, Turkish Parliament approved a new media law introducing imprisonment for spreading “false information” online. According to the controversial law that prompted heavy criticism for creating a censorship mechanism over dissident, those who are deemed to have “publicly disseminated false information regarding national security, public order, or general public health that creates anxiety, fear, or panic among the population or disturbs public peace,” will face prison sentences of between one and three years. If a court rules that someone spread misinformation as part of an illegal organization, the jail sentence will increase by 50 percent.