The documentary reveals an important insight: the countries where most of the attacks come from the government are the same ones where the state controls a relatively greater portion of the media, which fosters a climate of opinion that lacks criticism. For example, in Ecuador, since 2005, the government has created at least 17 state media outlets; in Venezuela, in May of this year, Globovisión network — the only one left with any critical voice — was sold to people close to the regime; and in Argentina, 80 percent of the media is controlled through government funding and advertising.
With presidential elections scheduled for October, the government is wary that violence and censorship have eroded human rights. Scrutiny from media industry groups and press freedom advocates, both domestic and international, has prompted Rousseff’s administration to take action, primarily by forming a working group in late 2012 to investigate attacks on the press and issue recommendations to the federal government.
Confronting the News: The State of Independent Media in Latin America, by Douglas Farah [June, 2011]. The report calls attention to the deteriorating environments for independent news media in many Latin American countries as governments across the region increasingly push for limits on the press. It explores tactics used by these governments to silence the media and encourages the NGO community and U.S., European, and other Latin American leaders to put pressure on Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Bolivia, among others, to stop infringing on the right to freedom of expression and access to information.
In his paper called ‘Changing media and politics in Tajikistan’, Esfandiar examines whether the growing access to new communication technology has resulted any changes in people’s lives. He looks at how new media tools are filling the information gap caused by the lack of access to traditional media, such as TV, newspapers and radio stations; and how new ideas and concepts about democracy, human rights and freedom can reach the population through new media technology and whether these are able to make the government more accountable. In the course of his research he interviewed a number of intellectuals, journalists, politicians and government officials. He also interviewed a random sample of Facebook users from Tajikistan and abroad, including some of the vast number of Tajik labour migrants in Russia. He selects case studies related to mobiles and Facebook, because the former is the most widespread tool of communication in Tajikistan and the latter the most popular place where Tajiks converse with each other and discuss a variety of issues of relevance to their country. In one example he examines, the use of mobile phones to spread videos of torture victims did help to hold the authorities to account.
By now, you’ll have heard – perhaps via international media, or on Twitter or Facebook – about the protests that started in defence of one of Istanbul’s last remaining green spaces, and have now, in response to heavy-handed policing and broader worries about democratic rights, spread across many cities in Turkey.
I’ve been following the torrent of communication and coverage on Twitter mainly via a mixture of local and international academics, NGO people and journalists – ranging from Asli Tunç, Yaman Akdeniz, Zeynep Tufekci (who has also blogged a rapid, excellent analysis), and Burcu Baykurt [UPDATE: Burcu has written a very comprehensive post detailing the main media reform issues emerging from the Gezi Park protest movement] to Aaron Stein, Benjamin Harvey, Hugh Pope and Amberin Zaman – as well as feeds like 140 Journos. (Feel free to tweet me or @mediapolicy with further suggestions.)
One of the most widely discussed (on Twitter) aspects of these protests has been the mainstream Turkish media’s perceived failure to cover the protests fairly, adequately, or in some cases at all, leading Bloomberg’s Benjamin Harvey to tweet the following:
Turks being confronted with the now-undeniable deficiencies of their media may be one of the most important aspects of these protests.
In report after report after report [UPDATE: 3 June 2013 – see comment below for further resources], those deficiencies – and the reasons for them – have been thoroughly, exhaustively anatomised. Asli Tunç and Vehbi Görgülü’s Mapping Digital Media Turkey report (2012), for example, gives a very comprehensive overview of the Turkish media sector and its travails, and is part of a 50-country series that mediapolicy.org readers know well. The Carnegie report (also supported by OSF) by Marc Pierini and Markus Mayr on Press Freedom in Turkey, takes a different approach. Introducing the report in January 2013, Pierini wrote:
I didn’t conduct yet another inquiry into press freedom. More modestly, I analyzed all the reports published on the subject by governmental and non-governmental, Turkish and foreign entities during the last two years. Although they had different focuses and methodologies, all these reports convey one single image: Turkey’s record is bad because it fares well below the country’s democratic credentials and is hurting the nation economically and diplomatically on the international scene.
One has to hope that the Gezi Park crisis will lead in some way to genuine reforms in Turkey’s media policy and media sector, freeing journalism to play a stronger role in the country’s democracy. As Turkey is one of mediapolicy.org‘s focus countries, we’ll definitely follow developments and build up useful resources over the coming weeks and months. We’d love to hear from academics, researchers, civil society and journalists interested in sharing perspectives on media policy and reform in Turkey – please get in touch on email or Twitter.