Journalism is under threat in Turkey, not least because 1 in 4 journalists is out of a job. An EU-funded program called “Media for Democracy,” or M4D, aims to protect journalists — though it faces multiple challenges.
Ersan Atar spent 22 years working as a court reporter and loving his profession. But then, like that of many other journalists in Turkey, his career came to a sudden end.
For reasons that went unexplained, the 46-year-old lost his job and was forced to completely reorient himself professionally. After four months, he found a job working in olive oil production. The former journalist has come to terms with his new line of work.
“Perhaps it sounds a little cynical, but in my last years as a journalist, I always had the feeling that I was harming someone. It always caused me a certain uneasiness. But now I can produce something that benefits people.”
Many unemployed journalists
According to figures from the Turkish Statistical Institute, in 2018 journalists were the second-largest occupational group facing unemployment after social workers. In just one year, the number of unemployed journalists rose by 4.7 percentage points to 23.8%.
According to Baris Yarkadas, a representative from the social democratic Republican People’s Party (CHP) who is also a trained journalist, the quota is even higher: “In my estimation, the figure is actually between 25 and 30%.”
The politician told DW that “of 10,000 journalists, at least 3,000 are unemployed, and it looks as if this number will increase.”
The industry is dominated by ever-growing media cartels, and plurality is falling by the wayside. The July 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan led to mass shutdowns of media and press houses. The weakening of trade unions in Turkey has further exacerbated the problem.
Yarkadas, whose CHP party opposes Erdogan, speaks of 173 media outlets that have closed and 800 journalists who have lost their professional accreditation. Yarkadas sees this as the main reason why unemployment among journalists has skyrocketed.
TGC takes action with M4D
The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC) has taken action to address the problem with the “Media for Democracy/Democracy Program for Media,” nicknamed M4D.
The program, which launched on April 1, aims to promote diversity in Turkish media, strengthen freedom of the press and support journalists in their work, including by helping those who are unemployed build freelance careers.
“Our intention is not to give away fish; instead, it is to teach people how to fish. We want to show Turkish journalists that we honor their efforts and recognize them,” said M4D coordinator Yusuf Kanli, who is a journalist himself.
Under the program, journalists can produce up to five articles per year to be published on the news page of the TGC, which was established especially for journalists. M4D provides them with technology and materials for this.
In addition, a “press house” has also been set up under the auspices of the TGC and is scheduled to launch on April 17. In it, freelance journalists, photographers and camera operators will be able to use studios, computers, software, meeting rooms and expert support provided by M4D.