The Listening Post

Media haven or hell? The paradox of journalism in Turkey

A look at two groups of exiled journalists: those on the run from Turkey, and others who have found a sanctuary there.

In this special edition of the show, we hear from two groups of exiled journalists: those on the run from Turkey, and others who have found sanctuary there.

Turkey: No country for bold journalists?

Last month, Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan held a rare press briefing for journalists in the country’s media capital, Istanbul.

In his opening remarks, Erdogan said that freedom of the press was of “vital importance” to him.

It was a statement that failed to square with the facts, let alone the numbers. Because for each of the last three years — since July of 2016, when an attempted coup failed to depose the president — Turkey has imprisoned more journalists than any other country.

And alongside all of those jailed, the government has prosecuted a much longer list of media workers whose fates still hang in the balance.

Following Ankara’s post-coup purge of the Turkish judiciary, for many, a fair trial is a seemingly distant prospect; a situation that has driven many of the accused into self-imposed exile.

In the first part of this special edition of the programme, The Listening Post‘s Flo Phillips speaks to three Turkish journalists – all former editors at newspapers critical of the ruling AK Party – about the cases against them, life in exile and the decline of press freedom in Turkey.


Mahir Zeynalov – editor, The Globe Post & former online editor, Today’s Zaman

Can Dundar – editor, Ozguruz & former editor, Cumhuriyet

Cagdas Kaplan – reporter, Yeni Yasam

In Ankara’s defence: An interview with Cem Kucuk

We wanted to get the Erdogan government’s response to the allegations made by Can Dundar, Mahir Zeynalov and Cagdas Kaplan in the opening segment of this Listening Post special.

We requested interviews with a number of senior government officials, however none of them agreed to speak with us. So we asked for an interview with Cem Kucuk, an Erdogan loyalist and a prominent face on the privately-owned TV channel, TGRT.

Kucuk agreed, but with strict conditions. He said he did not want to answer any questions about the Turkish government’s handling of specific journalists – in particular, the exiled newspaper editors we interviewed. He said our questions would be better answered by a representative of the state. He did however defend certain other statements about the media made by President Erdogan and one of his closest advisors.


Cem Kucuk – presenter, TGRT

Istanbul: Turkish haven for Arab journalists

Journalism may be under siege in Turkey, but there is a specific group of journalists – foreign ones – who are thriving there.

In the aftermath of the Arab Spring, hundreds of reporters from Egypt, Syria, Yemen and Libya fled authoritarian governments, oppression, prosecution and in some cases war – to come to Turkey, finding a sanctuary in which to produce the kind of journalism that would be impossible back home.

There are now more than a dozen Arab TV stations based in the country beaming their content back to news audiences across the Arab world.

The irony, and apparent hypocrisy, to all this – Turkey jailing its own dissident journalists while playing host to those from other countries – is not lost on either Turkish reporters or their foreign colleagues. They understand the politics at play.

The Listening Post spoke to three Arab journalists about life in exile, as well as the space that has been carved out for adversarial journalism aimed at the Arab world.


Hanaa Saleh – Yemeni journalist & executive manager, Belqees TV

Nader Fotoh – Egyptian journalist & presenter, El Sharq TV

Noor Haddad – Syrian journalist & presenter, Syria TV