ANKARA: A new report by the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ) says Turkey is the top country for attacks and threats against women journalists this year.
Between January and April, 114 female journalists were attacked or threatened in Turkey, the New York-based media organization uncovered more than anywhere else in the world.
The CFWIJs First Quarterly Report for 2021 coincidentally coincided with Izzet Ulvi Yonter, deputy leader of the Nationalist Movement party partner of the ruling Turkish coalition, aiming at Ebru Baki’s female anchor to cover her MHPs constitutional proposal.
Yonter referred to the broadcaster as a so-called journalist who distorts the facts and shows her intolerance against the MHP and said that her attempts to discredit their project proposal were insulting and rude.
Yonters’ criticism was followed on May 5 by the resignation of Bulent Aydemir, TV Haberturk editor-in-chief and Bakis co-speaker on the morning program.
The program was removed on Thursday, triggering a nationwide social media campaign using I do not view Haberturk TV as a hashtag.
The CFWIJs report said that, in Turkey, Nearly 50 women journalists appeared in court to combat baseless allegations; 20 suffered major harassment in the workplace in newsrooms; 15 female journalists were subjected to police violence while covering the news, 14 were detained; three women journalists were sentenced to prison and three were deported. While one journalist was threatened with intimidation, another became the target of racist rhetoric during the cover period.
Scott Griffen, deputy director at the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of journalists and editors defending media freedom, told Arab News: Women journalists face a double threat: They are attacked for their work and they are attacked for their gender the reflection of sexism in society. IPIs’ own research has shown that cyber-attacks on female journalists tend to be more vicious, and insults and threats are often of a sexual nature.
According to Griffen, attacks on women journalists are part of a broader trend, which is an attempt by those in power to defame and undermine critical journalism and various voices.
Referring to Yonters’s attack on Baki, he said: This incident shows that a political party, in this case the MHP, is unable to accept criticism and simply does not want or does not want to understand the role of journalism in society. Politicians are required to accept criticism, even harsh criticism. Ebru Baki was doing her job and the attacks on her are unacceptable.
Griffen thinks one consequence of these attacks is the risk of an increase in self-censorship.
Journalists who face such vicious attacks may decide to review their reporting to avoid such abuses in the future, or they may even decide to leave the profession. And that’s a huge loss to the public, he said. It means that stories are not being told and different voices are not being heard. And, of course, this is what the attackers want. They want to remove critical voices from the public sphere.
Male journalists in Turkey have also been the target of verbal and physical attacks. Recently, dissident journalist Levent Gultekin was beaten by a crowd in the middle of a street in Istanbul, shortly after he criticized the MHP and its former leader. Gultekin was verbally assaulted by the MHP deputy leader shortly before the attack.
The crackdown on critical and independent media in Turkey is getting worse every day with new attacks by political figures. And female journalists reporting on critical issues that are sensitive to the government or its political allies are not immune to attacks, Renan Akyavas, IPI program coordinator in Turkey, told Arab News.
Its own IPI recent research also confirms that female journalists are more targeted by online harassment for their reporting and critical views, she added.
The trend of public figures aiming at journalists to silence dissident voices has been on the rise, Akyavas said. In particular, we see a growing trend of attacks by MHP ultra-nationalist leaders and representatives to intimidate journalists, even in response to soft criticism.
The targeting of Ebru Baki and Haberturk TV is just the latest example of this attitude, which is simply unacceptable coming from a ruling coalition party. The MHP leadership should protect the fundamental rights and safety of journalists, rather than threaten them, she continued.
Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention and the protection it provided against domestic violence in March sparked further threats and violence against women reporters, the CFWIJ report noted.
Akyavas agrees. Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention had been a major disappointment for women in Turkey fighting for their rights and gender equality. Impunity for crimes and violence against women has become a new norm for the country, she said, adding that this trend will only cease if the Turkish authorities show a genuine willingness to protect and enforce women’s rights.
Women journalists in Turkey must continue their bold reporting, as their fundamental rights and freedom of expression were guaranteed and fully protected by the Turkish constitution. At IPI, we will continue our solidarity with them and our support for critical and independent journalism to give the public factual, objective news, Akyavas continued.
The Turkish Journalists’ Association, TGC, issued a statement Thursday criticizing the way women journalists were targeted by the MHP just because they smiled in the air. Such an attitude is aimed at the safety and security of our colleagues. “We urge the government and its partners to respect the law,” she said.
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