Turkey’s independent media outlets challenging the pro-government mainstream in terms of readership have yet another challenge among others: Google and Facebook preferences.
“Google gives 90.6% of the top slots in its highest volume news-related searches to Turkey’s pro-government media,” found a recent report by the International Press Institute (IPI).
The main beneficiaries of the Google privilege are Hürriyet, Sabah and Milliyet, according to the report prepared by IPI’s Turkish National Committee Vice President Emre Kızılkaya and journalist Burak Ütücü.
The report comes at a time when the government increases its pressure on social media companies, asking them to appoint local representatives. Google, and YouTube owned by its parent company have already declared they will abide by the new law that triggered a debate on expanding censorship in the country. Others including Tik Tok and Daily Motion, have joined them, with the government calling it “good news.”
Twitter has faced fines and an advertisement ban for not appointing a local representative and may lose 90% of its bandwidth in Turkey, which practically refers to an access ban, if it does not decide to do so.
Independent media catching up
The IPI report studied 28 national and local outlets in Turkey, representing the editorial, geographic, and sociodemographic diversity, to compare the digital footprint of independent publishers’ in various mediums and metrics with pro-government publishers.
It found that “independent media’s digital reach (33.5 million users) is catching up with the pro-government media’s (47.8 million users). While the latter group’s reach has stalled recently, independent outlets continued to expand their digital user base rapidly.”
Still, independent outlets present a more fragmented media landscape compared to the highly-centralized and concentrated pro-government media, according to the report.
“They also still lag behind the pro-government media in specific demographics, including women and youth.”
Pledges by the government
The report was released on March 2, simultaneously with President Erdoğan’s pledges to expand freedom of speech in a Human Rights Action Plan. On March 4, 66 journalists appeared before the court, mainly on terrorism-related charges.
The IPI report also cited YetkinReport –among other independent initiatives such as Medyascope, Gazete Duvar, Duvar English and T24– quoting its founder, Murat Yetkin, as saying that “The outlets that were described as the mainstream in the past are now poisoned soil. Perhaps there are still a few wildflowers that manage to blossom there, but they are exceptions, as the rule is that the soil is poisoned. Independent journalism is not possible there anymore.”
Please click to read the IPI Turkey Digital Media Report: ‘The New Mainstream’ Is Rising (And It Seeks Support) report.