Tag Archives: freedom of press

Freedom of Information and Democracy

world-press-freedom

By Hyeji Kim

We live surrounded by futuristic information technology ranging from Facebook and Google to wearable mobile gear. Yet, despite the gigantic leaps in technology for sharing information, many parts of the world still lack the right to share information at all. Reporters Without Borders have updated the World Press Freedom Index, measuring the level of freedom of information of both provider and recipient in 180 different countries. The indices show that many countries are behaving anachronistically by suppressing the media and journalists.

This kind of oppression takes many forms, ranging from censorship and legislative barriers to actual physical abuse and even abduction of journalists. The sources and causes for oppression vary greatly. Journalists are faced with assaults from all sides: the police, criminal groups, angered demonstrators, and devout political party supporters. In any case, different groups often see the media as a strategic target necessary to either achieve their political goals or cover their wrongful doings.

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A-tax on the Press

Recently, the Tax Ministry in Turkey slapped a record $2.5 billion lira fine on the country’s largest media conglomerate, Dogan Media Group (DMG). While the government insists that the company is guilty of tax evasion, opponents of the Justice and Development party (AKP) claim that this is further evidence of Prime Minister Erdogan’s penchant for authoritarianism. Yes, the DMG has most likely violated tax laws, but the disproportionately high penalty (the fine is nearly as much as the value of the company) and the selective application of the law (other media conglomerates are also guilty of similar activities), suggests that the DMG may have been targeted because of long-standing tension between DMG’s owner, Aydin Dogan, and Erdogan. Indeed, the staunchly secular Dogan, has been an outspoken critic of the Prime Minister since his days as mayor of Istanbul (1994-1998) and his newspapers have often disparaged the government for taking Turkey in an Islamist direction. The dispute between the two came to a head last fall in the lead-up to provincial elections when Dogan newspapers reported on links between the AKP and a Turkish charity based in Germany, Deniz Feneri, that had been indicted for fraud. In response, an indignant Erdogan urged his supporters to boycott newspapers that he said “stand by others rather than stand by the prime minister of the Turkish Republic.”  

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