A new report published by the Istanbul-based Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) reveals a grim picture of the state of journalism in Turkey, with nine out of 10 journalists feeling insecure due to the threat of arrest, detention, and violence.
The report, titled “Journalism in Turkey: I Don’t Feel Safe,” was conducted under the Global Media Defense Fund program in partnership with UNESCO. It surveyed 57 journalists from 13 cities, finding that 70.2% of journalists work under the shadow of possible detention or arrest, while 59.7% fear unemployment, and 49.1% worry about being put on trial.
Physical violence, including threats, harassment, stalking, and battery, has been compounded by online attacks. The most common areas where journalists face violence are in the field and on social media, with law enforcement violence and targeted tagging by state authorities being prevalent.
The report also highlights the vulnerability of LGBTI+ and women journalists to digital violence. Among the respondents, 44.4% of those identifying as female, non-binary, or transgender see sexual violence and gender-based attacks as potential threats. Additionally, 35.1% of journalists see racist attacks as a potential challenge.
The predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakır stood out in the survey, with all participating journalists from the area reporting physical violence or threats in the last five years.
Online violence, including threats, harassment, “doxxing,” and cyber-attacks, has become increasingly common. Journalists are also targeted through tagging on social media accounts of the General Directorate of Security (EGM) or the Minister of Interior, a practice that is widespread in Turkey.
The survey revealed that 78.9% of journalists have been subjected to digital violence in the last five years, with Twitter being the most common platform for digital attacks. The main reason for not filing a complaint in cases of digital violence was cited as “distrust in the justice system.”
The report emphasizes the systemic problem of impunity in both physical and digital violence against journalists in Turkey.
The report found that only 18, or 39.1 %, of journalists who stated they had been subjected to violence filed a complaint, with the majority of complaints resulting in non-prosecution. This underlines a pervasive issue of impunity within the judiciary in cases of violence against journalists.
The report also found that freelance journalists are more likely to be subjected to physical violence or threats, with 91.7% of such journalists reporting incidents.
The findings of the report paint a concerning picture of the state of journalism in Turkey, with the majority of journalists surveyed expressing a lack of safety in practicing their profession. The report calls attention to legal and practical shortcomings in preventing violence against journalists and punishing perpetrators, emphasizing the need for comprehensive measures to address these challenges.
The main findings from the report are:
- The survey included 57 journalists from 13 cities. One of the journalists is a citizen of the United Kingdom, one is from Germany, and the others are Turkish citizens.
- 46 of the 57 journalists surveyed were subjected to physical attacks or threats in the last 5 years.
- Among the female and male participants, this rate is 80%. Both of the two LGBTI+ journalists, one non-binary and one trans, declared that they were subjected to physical attacks or threats.
- The five forms of threat that most concern the interviewed journalists are, in order: Detention or arrest, unemployment, prosecution, physical violence, and racist attacks.
- Most journalists were subjected to physical violence or threats multiple times. One in five journalists said they were attacked more than 10 times.
- Freelance journalists are more exposed to physical violence or threats. Of the 24 journalists who are freelance or both freelance and affiliated with a news organization, 22, or 91.7%, stated that they were subjected to physical violence or threats.
- The type of violence journalists are most exposed to is insult and hate speech. This was followed by beatings and attacks with tear gas, pepper spray, or other gases.
- According to the participants’ responses, the identity of 18.7% of the perpetrators of threats and physical attacks is unknown. 17.6% of the perpetrators are public authorities, and 28.6% are police.
- The primary effect of violence on journalists emerged as concerns and anxiety about security.
- 78.9% of journalists were subjected to digital violence in the last five years. The rate of female journalists who declared that they were exposed to digital violence is 72%, while both of the two LGBTI+ participants said they were subjected to digital violence.
- Most journalists were subjected to digital violence multiple times. One in four journalists was subjected to digital attacks more than 10 times.
- The most commonly used medium in digital attacks is Twitter, with 70%, where political debates are most vividly conducted in Turkey.
- The prominent category among digital violence perpetrators was “perpetrators with unidentified identity” with 35.4%. This category was followed by “troll armies” and “politically connected groups,” both with 19.8%.
- The rate of participants who filed a complaint in the case of physical violence or threats was 31.6%, while this rate increased to 11.4% when digital violence was in question. The main reason for this is “lack of trust in the justice system.”
- 87.7% of the journalists surveyed do not feel generally safe while practicing their profession in Turkey. 50.9% of journalists in Turkey declared that they feel “not safe at all,” and 36.8% said they “do not feel safe.”
MLSA’s full report can be found here.