The right of the press: How restrictive laws continue to suppress media voices today

It seems almost unthinkable that the voice of the press continues to be silenced in today’s modern era, when the prevalence of civil reform movements is at an all time high.

A new media law implemented in Turkey on October 13 threatens to imprison journalists and social media users for up to three years for spreading “government disinformation,” granting authorities the right to restrict online speech by dissident voices. Lawmakers from Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s ruling party (AKP) and its nationalist allies voted to approve the bill despite the opposition of several neighboring European countries and media rights activists against it.

“It is one of the heaviest censorship regulations in the history of the Republic (of Turkey),” Diyarbakir office of the Turkish Journalists’ Union said. “It is an attempt to destroy the press.”

Turkey’s internet legislation also requires social media sites with more than a million daily users to appoint a representative to enforce court orders to remove content. Global platforms must also store user data within Turkey, a practice known as data localization, which critics say expands government surveillance of citizens.

“This law does not only affect journalists, it does not only affect social media users,” Committee to Protect Journalists representative Ozgur Ogret said. “This law is a threat to anybody who has the ability to speak, or read, and write.”

As the Managing Editor of North Star News and ultimately, a journalist myself, I strongly condemn any government attempts to suppress the voice of the media. It is essential to preserve the freedom of the press because oftentimes, it is the sole platform that can be used to inform the public about the overlooked injustices that take place around the world. 

Fortunately, it appears that I am not alone in my disapproval of the new law, as evidenced by various civil protests that have erupted across Turkey. The fact that there are individuals willing and able to defend the freedom of the Turkish press inspires me in a way that makes me realize there is hope to establish a solution to this problem, despite the government’s attempt to continue its rampage of oppression against the media.

Apparently, Turkey’s government has not stopped at merely a threat to imprison journalists. According to AP News, Turkish law enforcement detained 11 journalists working for pro-Kurdish media station Mezopotamya in an attempt to further crack down on controversial social media and independent reporting. 

“Turkish authorities once again deprived several journalists of their freedoms under a court-ordered secret investigation,”  Committee to Protect Journalists Europe and Central Asia program coordinator Gulnza Said said. “Turkish authorities must immediately release the journalists in custody, return their confiscated property, and stop harassing the Kurdish media in Turkey with baseless charges that typically end up being related to their journalism.”

Personally, I feel like more direct action needs to be taken to combat this oppression. Not everyone realizes how valuable the role of the media is until it’s forcibly eliminated. Journalists do more than just entertain; they help inform and spread awareness about injustices that are often swept under the rug. Without the indispensable role of the media, there may be no one to amplify the voices of the oppressed and they will continue to suffer in silence.

The media radiates a powerful light to the world that must be seen and screams a voice that must be heard. Efforts to suppress the institution, like the one currently taking place in Turkey, attempt to strip the media of its power and the only way we as a society can eradicate this injustice is to learn to respect its influence and stand up for the constitutional right of the press.