The 17th episode of IPI’s podcast series IPI Freedom Dialogues: Turkey is out now!

In the 17th episode of IPI Freedom Dialogues: Turkey, host Cansu Çamlıbel and her guest Berkant Gültekin, an editorial board member of BirGün newspaper, discussed the digitalization of the media, “subscription models” based on readers’ support for quality, independent journalism, and its impact on democracy.

Previous episodes of IPI’s Freedom Dialogues: Turkey podcasts are available here.

Gültekin explained how the Press Advertising Agency (BİK), a media regulatory body responsible for fair distribution of public ads to newspapers, has been politicized and instrumentalized in the hands of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and turned into a political apparatus. He said that due to this change in BİK’s position, BirGün and other independent media receive regular fines in the form of public ad bans, which create immense economic difficulties for critical media due to the loss of income. Gültekin stated that these regular public ad bans were mostly initiated after business people or politicians who were the subject of news articles had notified BİK. Gültekin sees this as an act of punishment against independent media.

Gültekin said that the Gezi Park protests in 2013 were a turning point for BirGün, resulting in a considerable increase in their reach and circulation since the public was unable to access factual information from pro-government media channels and thus turned to BirGün for quality news.

According to Gültekin, while the digitalization of the media has been underway globally for many years now, this process started to accelerate in Turkey around 2012, resulting in a drop in print newspaper sales as a natural outcome.

Emphasizing that BirGün has been exposed to immense pressure by the government in recent years, Gültekin said that the newspaper had to create its own resources to continue independent journalism. He stressed that BirGün’s fundamental objective is to remain independent and therefore its resources must also be independent. And the only way for BirGün to continue its objective to publish independent and quality journalism, he said, is with the support of the public.

Underlining the importance of the free media for democratic countries, Gültekin said that if there were no flow of accurate information, no critical media, then the conditions to preserve and protect the democracy would be insufficient. BirGün, he said, does not consider the news as a commodity, but a public good and a fundamental right, producing news not to sell but to inform the public with facts.

Topics covered in the podcast include:

  • BİK’s financial pressure on media as a punishment mechanism
  • Digitalization of Turkey’s media and its impact on print newspapers
  • Subscription model for sustainable independent journalism
  • BirGün’s subscription campaign and readers’ support
  • The importance of independent journalism for democracy

Highlights from the episode (Berkant Gültekin):            

  • “Both restrictions during the pandemic and the acceleration and domination of digitalization affect and overtake the print publication.”
  • “The only way to survive without the capital of external groups or holdings is being favored [and supported] by the readers.”
  • “We do journalism for democratic channels to develop, [for] a true democracy to thrive.”
  • “In order to receive quality news, the number of quality news outlets must increase. And this depends on the increase of public awareness [on this issue], on the will of society and readers to take on responsibility.”