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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

Part of UK in Turkey World Press Freedom Day

5th February 2013

World Press Freedom Index: Turkey


This time last year I wrote a blog about freedom of the media in Ukraine reporting on the latest press freedom index released by the international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders. So I was intrigued to see Reporters without Borders publish their 2013 World Press Freedom Index recently.

Since I arrived in Turkey a few months ago, Turkish journalists have often told me that freedom of the press is in danger in Turkey. They have drawn my attention, for example, to the October 2012 report by the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Turkey’s Press Freedom Crisis“.

Conversely, I have read with interest statements by representatives of the Turkish Government that it is unhappy that so many journalists are languishing in prison; and have seen the response by Reporters without Borders to stories in some Turkish newspapers about their recent report.

The 2013 Reporters Without Borders Index puts Turkey in 154th place out of 179 countries, six places down on the previous year. This is an important judgement because Reporters Without Borders is an independent non-governmental organisation (NGO) with no particular axe to grind, which seeks to produce comparable information for as many countries as possible.

You can download a full copy of the 2013 Index, in English or Turkish. You can also see how the position of countries changes over time as far back as 2002.

It is of course open to governments to dispute the findings of independent NGOs. But clearly for a country proud of its democratic traditions and ambitious to be a regional leader, 154th place in an index of this kind is not where you want to be.

I shall read comments by the Turkish authorities on the Reporters Without Borders Index with interest; and look forward to seeing how Turkey performs in next year’s index.

6 comments on “World Press Freedom Index: Turkey

  1. The biggest problem is the complete lack of judicial independence. The previous civil service was political and biased against the AKP, so the party has been winkling them out and promoting its own supporters. Now you have a situation where an AKPli policeman arrests you, an AKPli public prosecutor tries you and an AKPli judge judges you, and the result is vastly unfair judgements. Needless to say, AKP plans to take out the high court (Yargıtay) and appoint the new judges themselves will not help.

  2. Hopefully by this time next year we will see the results of EU funded societal transition programs. This year one of the projects was on freedom of the press and entailed workshops and seminars. On the request of Turkish journalists it had to take place outside Turkey. I certainly hope that it had a positive effect. For my bachelors thesis I will do research on this topic in Turkey and hope to interview many journalists.

  3. I want to ask you something: do you know why are the Turkish journalists in prison ? i think you do not know. They are not in prison because of their opinions, they are in prison because of their terrorist activities. Before acclaming that there is no freedom of press in Turkey you must investigate deeply and think twice

    1. In Turkey anti-terror legislation says you don’t even need to be a member of a terror organisation, any act whatsoever deemed to be in aid of a terror group is classified as a terror crime. So for example, if I blog about a pro-PKK protest that hadn’t been covered on the mainstream media, any prosecutor can file terror charges, which, don’t forget, can involve months in trial custody before my case is heard. The fact I’ve never so much as met a member of the PKK is neither here not there.

      Check Human Rights Watch’s 2013 report: http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/country-chapters/112314

    2. Muhammet, you are toeing the Islamist government’s line pretty well, congratulations. On the other hand, the other commentators saw right through your remarks, so, too bad.

      What’s happening to journalists is one aspect of the creeping authoritarianism in this country, where the government is becoming ever more powerful, such as wanting to appoint judges itself.

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About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.