Mr. President, Can I Speak? The Transformation of Turkish Media Since 2002
By Bengisu Aktulga
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, each year Turkey breaks its own records in the number of journalists that are imprisoned within the country. It is not only that Turkey has more journalists in prison than any other country, but any kind of direct or indirect critique is banned, censored, or prosecuted. This project examines the relationship between the media owners and the political elite in Turkey since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. It aims to show how the large conglomerates use their media outlets as a tool to promote government interest, which has resulted in creating a pro-government media. Also, it discusses how the journalists continue trying to do their job and report the news while under the president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s control for more than a decade. I will focus especially on the several trials of journalists from a number of social, ideological, and political news sources as case studies on the limitations of freedom of speech in Turkey. My project also explores the effects of the social and political events of the last fifteen years, such as the Gezi Park Protests in 2013 and the failed coup attempt in 2016, which have led to the establishment of a highly controlled pro-government media.
This project consists of two parts: a research component laying out the recent political and social changes which have affected the media in Turkey over the last fifteen years, and a creative component that visualizes and documents this research in a form that combines archival materials, voice over narration, and animation, with the latter being utilized as a means of revealing censored reports and banned sources more easily. It is my aim that this project will serve as strong evidence of the historical transformation of the media system in Turkey from one that was relatively open and free to one that has become increasingly government controlled. It will also demonstrate how freedom of speech can come under severe threat even by a democratically elected government.