A free press is an essential component of democracy. It’s not a stretch when Americans say the media is “The Fourth Branch” of the government. When the media is controlled by the government there is a huge conflict of interest, as citizens are less able to stay accurately informed regarding everything from laws to domestic and international happenings. To an extreme example, much of North Korea’s terrible situation for its citizens hinges on a tightly restricted government-run media system.
Unfortunately, the latest example of press repression has recently occurred in Turkey, where the government seized the two largest publications in the country (Zaman and Cihan). The feeling in the area is that the seizures occurred because the media outlets have become increasingly critical of President RecepTayyip Erdogan.
The international community has condemned these actions, and locals are extremely angry and protesting loudly. Sevgi Akarcesme, the Editor-in-Chief of Today’s Zaman had said, “There’s a huge amount of fear in society, among intellectuals, among businesspeople, among civil society. Democracy is suspended effectively in Turkey at the moment." Yavuz Baydar of the Platform for Independent Journalism said, “The seizure of the news agency following that of Zaman is another nail in the coffin of journalism in Turkey. Zaman was known for independently monitoring each and every election in Turkey. The real effects of its closure cannot yet be understood, neither by the local nor by the global public.”
Hopefully, pressure from both the local population and international communities will force President Erdogan to reconsider and return the media to independent control.