Pro government daily fails own columnist’s ‘press freedom test’

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A columnist from a staunchly pro-government Turkish daily has penned a critical piece to test whether the press is free in Turkey, but the gambit failed after her newspaper refused to publish it.

The piece by columnist Gönül Tol from daily Akşam focused on the government’s reactions to a report by Freedom House which demoted Turkey to the league of “Not Free” countries. Tol argued that the report could be criticized, but slamming it by underlining that the nongovernmental organization’s founders are Jewish was wrong.

The critics of the report, which focused on the religious identity of a person who inherited it from birth and has a limited role in its development, shows the problems of Turkish political culture that sees everything through the perspective of identities, Tol said in her work.

“Let’s test the report,” Tol said in conclusion. “If this writing is published as it is, without being caught by the editor, press freedom in Turkey could be freer than what the Freedom House report said.”

The Turkish news website T24 published the full text on May 13, after Akşam failed to do so.

“A newspaper is not the right place to conduct an experiment. We tried to talk to our columnist, but we couldn’t. We had nothing else to do but not publish the piece. We should have solved the issue with dialogue, but she sent the piece to other outlets instead. This is something we can’t accept,” Murat Kelkitlioğlu, Akşam’s news coordinator, told Hürriyet Daily News.

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