The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) and The Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) working in partnership with a range of leading journalists, media academics and media support groups in Turkey have launched the Coalition for Ethical Journalism Turkey (CEJT) to support independent and ethical journalism and to combat self-censorship in the current hostile climate in the country.

The launch of the CEJT in Istanbul on September 5th is an unprecedented action of co-operation among supporters of independent journalism and followed initial consultations among Turkish groups in meetings in Istanbul and Ankara in April 2018.

At this stage groups involved in the process included the Turkish Press Council, the Uğur Mumcu Investigative Journalism Foundation, the Platform for Independent Journalism (P24), a not-for-profit fact-checking social enterprise and Hürriyet daily’s ombudsman Faruk Bildirici and other journalists.

After two days of discussions a draft action plan including trainings to raise awareness of the core values of journalism and to improve journalistic skills and to create new forms of telling a story using technology. It is also agreed that the platform should broaden with the participation of civil society and interest groups.

Based on the urgent need for positive and practical steps to strengthen media and journalism the following activities were proposed and agreed at the launch meeting in Istanbul

  • Two training programmes on ethics and data journalism
  • Pilot training programme on investigative journalism
  • A workshop on creating Ethical Media Audits
  • Establishing an online information and databank
  • Preparing a glossary of hate speech or discriminative language produced by journalists.

The CEJT, which was given added support from The Journalists Association of Turkey, Hrant Dink Foundation, the Media and Law Studies Association, and press freedom groups at the Istanbul launch meeting, will co-ordinate the implementation of this programme of work.

The Creation of a local and self-motivated coalition to speak up for journalism in Turkey is Urgently Needed.

“Today journalism is at death’s door in Turkey” a veteran journalist said at the launch meeting.

The toxic climate of bias and propaganda and self-censorship spread from pro-government media targeted the profession itself. Self-censorship is very widespread not only in mainstream but also small and independent online and offline media organizations.

Speakers noted that being editorially independent is not without risk and the core values of journalism are being eroded also in alternative media.

The profound crisis facing the journalists in the country is creating a dangerous atmosphere with ethics under pressure as high-level jailed journalists face prosecution and imprisonment.

But despite all of this, the associations, human rights and media support groups and many individual journalists and editors have not abandoned hope. They are aware of the need for a change of direction and are ready to support some concrete and practical positive steps to strengthen journalism.

At the beginning of the launch meeting, the President of EJN Aidan White emphasized the independent and non-political status of the CEJT.

This is a voluntary coalition. Any organization or journalist can join or withdraw at any time. It brings together those who remain committed to the core values of journalism and to joint actions in support of journalism.

The CEJT does not replace, substitute or seek to compete with any of its supporters.

Although it welcomes international support the CJET is first and foremost a Turkish coalition, organized and driven and local priorities. It will be self-motivated and aims to be a long-term initiative helping Turkish journalists to strengthen their capacity to carry out independent journalism.

After the one-day discussions the partners agreed on the following practical follow up steps:

  • To establish a Turkish language web platform to provides resources on journalism and goos ethical practice and to stimulate debate among media professionals. struggle with ethical issues in the media. All partners can contribute to the debates to help journalists and editors examine sensitive and controversial issues.
  • To prepare a glossary on hate speech or discrimination in Turkey produced by journalists. This can be useful, but it given the difficult and politicized information climate, it will be necessary to be careful and sensitive in the proposed formulations.
  • To focus attention on young journalists or students and to reinforce the core values of journalism — accuracy, independence, impartiality, humanity, and transparency  — and to embed them in all levels of CEJT work. These are not just essential for story-telling they are the benchmarks for professionalism and for the future of journalism in Turkey.
  • To improve technical news-gathering methods, technical skills and capacity in the use of technology. Practical training in this area is crucial for young journalists.
  • To create fit-for-purpose training modules that are tailored to local needs, meet the needs of our target group and are accessible to all.

The CEJT also aims to develop an internship program to support the core principles of the program in cooperation with international media organizations’ local bureaus. In case of need, we should seek new cooperation to improve young journalists’ language skills.

The action plan and initial documentation will be made available on the new CEJT website. The launch meeting agreed that CETJ meetings will be open to all support organizations and journalists and editors. There are no financial obligations involved. The CETJ secretariat will not seek funding for activities or country programs on behalf of the coalition members. The initial program has been assisted through existing partnerships with the Fritt Ord Foundation in Norway, UNESCO and the NMFA.

The meeting agreed that in the initial period the leadership of the CEJT will be shared by Mustafa Kuleli, Ceren Sozeri, and Can Ertuna.