The International Press Institute (IPI) is proudly launching the new video reporting series “Journalism under the Shadow of the Pandemic: Turkey”. The project, a series of interviews with leading journalists and media experts, is led by IPI Turkey National Committee member İpek Yezdani.

The interviews focus on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the quality and independence of journalism in Turkey and the working conditions of journalists. It will provide first-hand experience from executives and editors from various independent media outlets in Turkey as they explain how the coronavirus pandemic affected their work on the ground and what they did to overcome the difficulties that have come with it. The video interviews will be in Turkish followed by a full written study on the topic in both English and Turkish.

Independent journalism already faces many financial and legal difficulties in Turkey. Dozens of journalists remain behind bars in the country, and independent media are targeted for their work on a daily basis.  The coronavirus pandemic added another challenge to overcoming the repression that surrounds the profession.

“Journalism under the Shadow of the Pandemic: Turkey” is being prepared and led by İpek Yezdani, foreign news editor of Olay TV and a member of IPI’s Turkey National Committee. Before joining Olay TV, Yezdani worked for Hürriyet, once Turkey’s largest circulating newspaper and a respected mainstream publication before it was purchased by the government-aligned Demirören Media Group. After the sale, Yezdani was laid off together with 44 others at the paper.

The first interview is with İpek Özbey, the managing editor of Cumhuriyet, one of Turkey’s few remaining independent print newspapers. Özbey previously worked for many news outlets including NTV, CNN Türk and Hürriyet. She was also among the 45 journalists who were laid off from Hürriyet in 2019.

Özbey articulated the financial and physical struggles that Cumhuriyet has faced during the pandemic. But she noted that Cumhuriyet was in a relatively better position, and was one of the newspapers whose circulation returned to normal soon after the pandemic.

“I believe we did everything we could to uplift independent journalism through the COVID-19 pandemic and delivered every aspect of the case stories”, Özbey said. She said she still believes that even if the working conditions and habits shift from offices to homes, journalism should be excluded from that trend because journalism should be on the ground. And she underlined the importance of readers’ loyalty and commitment to newspapers to survive this pandemic.