Turkish public unhappy about government's media interference, Internet law [Cihan News Agency (Turkey)]
(Cihan News Agency (Turkey) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) ANKARA (CIHAN)- A newly released opinion poll has shown that Turkish people are unhappy about claims that the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government has interfered in a number of media outlets and their reporting as well as a newly approved law on the regulation of Internet news portals and websites.
Conducted by the MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center, the poll suggests that 58.5 percent of participants think that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has interfered in the media. While 33.8 percent do not think that the prime minister interferes in the media, the remaining 7.7 percent declined to comment. In addition, 68.4 percent of the respondents said they do not approve of the prime minister's interference in the media. While 22.1 percent said they do approve of such interference, 9.5 percent declined to comment.
The prime minister's interference in the media grew more evident after recent confessions from Erdogan and the editor-in-chief of a major Turkish newspaper in February. On Feb. 11, Erdogan acknowledged that he had called an executive at a mainstream news station while on an official visit to Morocco in June of 2013 to discuss the station's coverage of comments by an opposition leader.
Also in mid-February, Habertürk Editor-in-Chief Fatih Altayli said on a televised program that that there is intense government pressure on the Turkish media. "Instructions are pouring down every day [on media groups] from somewhere," Altayli said, adding: "There is pressure on all of us. Today, the dignity of journalism is being crushed underfoot. Everybody is afraid [of losing his or her job]."
When asked whether freedom of thought and freedom of expression are stronger in Turkey compared to last year, 48.6 percent of respondents said they have weakened, 31.3 percent said they have grown stronger, 16.2 percent said they have not changed and 3.9 percent declined to comment.
Pollsters also questioned the respondents about a newly approved law on the Internet. When asked whether they approve of the authority vested in the Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) to block access to a website on its own initiative without obtaining a court order first, 59.1 percent said "no" while 23.5 percent said "yes."
According to the Internet law, which was approved by President Abdullah Gül on Feb. 18, the transportation, maritime affairs and communications minister will be able to block websites without first obtaining a court order. In addition, the TIB head will be authorized to block access to a web page on his own initiative in the event of a request concerning the violation of the right to privacy. The law is seen by Erdogan's critics as an authoritarian response to obstruct court cases and prevent leaks from circulating online, after a corruption probe implicating members of his government broke in December of last year.
Nearly 62 percent of participants in the opinion poll said they do not find the president's approval of the Internet law appropriate. Another 23.6 percent said they find the president's approval appropriate, while 14.5 percent declined to comment.
The Internet law also includes a measure that allows for the recording of Internet users' browsing histories and saving this data for up to two years. The move has raised concerns over the government's increasing encroachment into people's private lives as well as the different media through which people express their social and political opinions.
Furthermore, the protection of personal data was one of the most important promises the government made in the constitutional referendum of Sept. 12, 2010.
In response to a question about the future of Turkey, 52.6 percent of respondents expressed their belief that Turkey is headed for a bad future, while 34.1 percent said Turkey is headed for a good future.
Confidence in political leaders in decline
The opinion poll has shown that there is a considerable decline in people's approval of the policies pursued by existing political leaders.
Some 49.8 percent said they approve of the policies pursued by the president. Gül's approval rate was 73.9 percent in December of 2007, a few months after he was elected to office.
A similar decline is also apparent for the prime minister. Of those questioned, 43.5 percent said they approve of the prime minister's policies in this poll, while the figure was as high as 73.7 percent in December of 2007.
In addition, 27.6 percent said they approve of Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu's policies. His approval rate was at 43.4 percent in January of 2011 after being elected as party chair. The approval rate for Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has dropped to 29.1 percent from 43.7 percent in December of 2007. However, the approval rate for Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) Co-Chair Selahattin Demirtas has risen to 15 percent from 13 percent in December of 2013.
The poll was conducted from Feb. 19-23 by telephone with a random national sample of 1,505 adults residing in cities, towns and villages. The margin of error for the overall poll is 2.5 percentage points, and the confidence level is 95 percent. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)
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