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The Big Chill: Press Freedom in Turkey

On March 13, 2012, more than 50 people attended the CIMA discussion on press freedom in Turkey, which NED’s Middle East and North Africa program co-organized. Since the Arab Spring, an increasing number of voices have sought to recognize Turkey as a model of secular constitutional democracy whose political and economic experience may afford guidance for those countries in transition. Turkey’s formidable economy and political will to expand its regional influence have led to a more assertive posture at a time when several of its neighbors are locked in painful struggles for democracy. Yet Turkey may not be the model it seems. Despite progress resulting from the country’s European Union accession process, there are serious concerns about the future of liberal democracy in Turkey, particularly for freedom of expression. Arrests of journalists, vague laws on criminal defamation and insult, Internet censorship, and concentration of ownership have had a chilling effect on press freedom in Turkey, which is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists. Over the last decade, the result has been chronic self-censorship by reporters and commentators fearful of prosecution or losing their jobs. Panelists examined whether attempts to curb press freedom have dimmed Turkey’s democratic glow and how they have had an impact on the balance between state security and human rights.

Watch the event here:

The Center for International Media Assistance
and the Middle East and North Africa Program
at the National Endowment for Democracy
invite you to a panel discussion on

The Big Chill:
Press Freedom in Turkey

Featuring:

Nina Ognianova
Committee to Protect Journalists

Ilhan Tanir
Vatan Daily, Hürriyet Daily News

Berna Turam
Northeastern University

Moderated by:

Richard Kraemer
National Endowment for Democracy

With remarks by:

Carl Gershman
National Endowment for Democracy

Tuesday, March 13, 2012
2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.

1025 F Street, NW, Suite 800
Washington, D.C. 20004



Since the Arab Spring, an increasing number of voices have sought to recognize Turkey as a model of secular constitutional democracy whose political and economic experience may afford guidance for those countries in transition. Turkey’s formidable economy and political will to expand its regional influence have led to a more assertive posture at a time when several of its neighbors are locked in painful struggles for democracy. Yet Turkey may not be the model it seems. Despite progress resulting from the country’s European Union accession process, there are serious concerns about the future of liberal democracy in Turkey, particularly for freedom of expression. Arrests of journalists, vague laws on criminal defamation and insult, Internet censorship, and concentration of ownership have had a chilling effect on press freedom in Turkey, which is one of the world’s worst jailers of journalists. Over the last decade, the result has been chronic self-censorship by reporters and commentators fearful of prosecution or losing their jobs. Panelists will examine whether attempts to curb press freedom have dimmed Turkey’s democratic glow and how they have had an impact on the balance between state security and human rights.

About the speakers:

Nina Ognianova is the coordinator for the Europe and Central Asia program at the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which she joined in 2003. She has led fact-finding and advocacy missions for CPJ to Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkey on regional press freedom issues. Since 2007, she has also organized annual missions to Moscow and the European Union, focusing on the issue of impunity in Russian journalists’ killings. Previously, Ognianova was a staff writer for the International Journalists’ Network, the media-assistance website of the International Center for Journalists, where she covered Central, Eastern, and Southeastern Europe. Ognianova earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communications from the American University in Bulgaria and a master’s degree from the Missouri School of Journalism-Columbia. Her commentaries have appeared in the Guardian, the International Herald Tribune, and the Huffington Post, among others. Ognianova is a native Bulgarian speaker, fluent in English and Russian and proficient in Macedonian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, and Italian.

Ilhan Tanir is a regular columnist for Hürriyet Daily News and is the Washington, DC, correspondent for Vatan Daily, one of the most widely distributed Turkish newspapers. He writes extensively on Turkey-U.S. relations, and about issues related to the wider Middle East and Eurasia region. He has also been published by the Christian Science Monitor, the Daily Star in Lebanon, and several think tank newsletters and has been frequently quoted by the Jerusalem Post, Washington Times, and Congressional Research Service, among others. He earned his master’s degree from George Mason University in public administration and international management, and his bachelor’s degree from Ankara University’s Political Science School in Turkey.

Berna Turam is associate professor of sociology and international affairs at Northeastern University, where she focuses on state-society interaction and the intersections of religion, urban space, and gender. In addition to her books, Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement(2007) and Secular State and Religious Society: Two Forces at Play in Turkey (2012), she has published many book chapters and articles in peer-reviewed journals, including the British Journal of Sociology, Nations and Nationalism, and the NED’s Journal of Democracy. Turam is a recipient of a National Science Foundation award to collaborate on a project on religion and science, which examines the tensions between evolution and Islamic creationism within and outside of Muslim societies. She earned two bachelor’s degrees in the sociology and political science departments at Bosphorus University in Turkey and received her doctorate in sociology at McGill University in Canada. She is currently working on a book, Democracy Without Freedom? Urban Space and Political Power, for which she has conducted ethnographic research since 2007 in Istanbul, Berlin, and Boston.