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Turkey’s Democratic Breakdown and Press Freedom

Abstract

This essay aims to explore the progress and setbacks regarding press freedom in Turkey in line with Ankara’s decade-long efforts for EU accession, and EU standards in particular during Justice and Development Party (AKP) administration over the past decade. Its central theme is to analyze the major components of media system and how press freedom faced obstruction and challenges in Turkey’s everevolving and changing political domain beset by periodic crises and direct and indirect interference from non-governmental actors, bureaucratic power sources and outside elements. The scope of the study spans several decades, but mostly focuses on the past few years. It examines the cases of journalists who faced prison sentences and different forms of legal investigations in Turkey over their journalistic works and how they brought their cases to the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) when all options for legal remedy at domestic legal channels have been rendered near impossible. Press freedom in Turkey according to European standards, therefore, happens to be the main theme of the study to offer a comparative analysis regarding entrenched problems in Turkey’s legal system and how the ECtHR involved in cases regarding media freedom. It delves into details of specific cases that were taken by the Strasbourg-based court, which has recently been overwhelmed by tens of thousands of applications from Turkey in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016. Taken in a broader historical perspective and context, the study aims to provide a background to the problems that have dogged Turkey in terms of media freedom from the EU prism. Given that more than 100 journalists languish in Turkey’s prisons and around 160 media outlets have been shut down in the post-coup crackdown, the issue appears to be currently relevant to today’s politics.According to New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Turkey is the top jailer of journalists in the world. As a methodological framework, the essay will provide a narrative, descriptive history of the media and government relations. It will also offer content analysis and historical assessment to make a compelling case.

Bora Erdem

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