Our interview with Baha Yilmaz started with the issues of freedom and censorship of press-publication in Turkey. We also turned to the existing relationship between capital and the press, how this relationship affects journalism. We touched on yesterday and today of the opposition or the ruling press. Bahar Yilmaz answered our questions with lean and clear sentences with years of professional background. ( roportage:Hayati Esen)
As in all parts of the world, the media in Turkey is under the control of large capital circles. From this point of view, can we think of a freedom of press release or the free circulation of news and information?
Not really, of course not! It’s not possible to talk about such a situation. We need to look at the reason why the capital that is at stake in your question wants to run a media organization, and another issue is that we need to think about what tools we need for the liberation of the press. I think both are ontological problems and both management understanding and capital power relations in Turkey are very restrictive of this process. Another point is that we do not have a media diversity that can be an alternative to media outlets held by different capital circles. Speaking of which, it is also useful to examine who controls the advertising revenues that determine the area of media existence and how this advertising cake is distributed. In other words, production relations determine the right, tone and dosage of the media to say the capital. It is no surprise to see today’s government in this country, where the media, which are relentlessly critical of the economy, defend tomorrow!
The press in Turkey was divided secularly and conservatively in the 80s. And there were two issues discussed in the press in general? One is asylum and the other is secularism. Looking at today, the media is divided into two groups; the ruling parties and the opposition. What would you like to say about this change?
Actually, nothing’s changed. The camping process of the 80s, the process of generating discourse and self-disclosure through the other, is still valid today. Yesterday, secular-conservative tensions turned into a president-nation conflict today. When you look closely at this tension, we see a discourse that feeds on each other, gradually loses its identity and creates a space of existence through the identity of the other person. Unfortunately, the media is the primary tool of this rhetoric. Neoliberal policies that began with the AK Party process have badly battered our society. In other words, or if we deepen our gaze a little more; The primary requirement for citizens who are the subjects of the neoliberal world to engage with others as an entrepreneur is its purpose. In other words, if it lacks a purpose, it is incapacitated. Today, we see that all relations created in all segments of our society, especially in the political arena, have a purpose. However, non-conflict and freedom are formed only by an environment of friendship. We can read this backwards. In Indo-European languages such as English, friendship and freedom are based on two words derived from the same root. Byung-Chul Han emphasizes this issue in his Psychopolitics. Well, let’s develop this concept a little bit and we can easily say that, as Han said, freedom is only something that can be felt in friendships in which one feels safe. As long as the process of marginalization and negative identification continues in Turkey as it has been for the last 20 years or before, we cannot talk about a liberation of any institutional structure that occupies the public space. This includes freedom of the press.
As long as the concept of consumerism, the subject of neoliberalism, engulfs the public sphere, we will continue to consider the concept of freedom as a veiled and past memory. As long as the political symish continues to present what the consumer should consume as a package of complaints, i.e. to meet the needs of the electorate with other rhetoric, it will continue to be the counter of this consumption relationship in the media.
Internet publishing seems to provide journalism and publishing opportunities with low capital in a way. But now we see that it is becoming increasingly controlled by large capital groups in this area. The internet world was creating their own names, their own reputations, their own bloger. But it seems to me that journalists who have worked in large capital groups over the last few years, as well as powerful capital groups, are trying to “take over this place.” Should we say this is a desire to take over internet publishing and control it, or is it just a new realization of the effects of internet publishing?
I think you asked a good question. I was an economics broadcaster for an international media group for many years. One of the most important issues I realized at the time was the reputational position of statistical information. I mean, data, but how processed data affects people, groups. Serving an analysisable knowledge with the right tools and narrative technique can destroy many urban myths. It’s kind of like declaring the end of theory or David Brooks declaring the religion of Dataism. The greatest convenience that internet media brings to consumers, advertisers and large server owners who control the system is measurable. It’s as low-cost as you say, but it’s measurable; the recordability of its influence and domain has facilitated the detection of important blogs and bloggers who have logged out in this field. On the other hand, this has made it easier to detect prominent actors or phenomena in other social media areas. Look, Voltair was dreaming of a history free of mythology through statistics. In other words, thanks to statistics, he could reconsture a philosophy of history or have the opportunity to reread history and read it differently. As a matter of fact, Voltair’s dream came true. In other words, we opened the door to a new enlightenment with statistics and even the measurement brought by statistics. Of course, another aspect of this enlightenment event is transparency. In other words, the fact that the data is open to communication, that is, in a way, this love affair between them, which we cannot talk about the transparency of the data that is not shared, whether it is open or closed. Today, it has revealed a phenomenon we call data fetishism. I think the objective element of this data fetishism is the actors that stand out both on the web and on social media. Bloggers, journalists, phenomena, etc.
We said that if we go back to the model we have established in the power media relationship, there should be a purpose. We emphasized that the most important element of this purpose is consumption. From this point of view, it should not surprise us that identities that produce news freely on social media or on the web are the focus of this consumer object and are conquered. There are very few people who can stand up to that.
On the other hand, we need to know that the concept of freedom obtained in these environments is also limited and limited to data. At least until an internet environment develops in coin logic, this process will work.
Is there a censorship problem in Turkey? Or are you observing the more censorship in what areas? Compared to Europe and America, how much of our censorship can be done in the West?
I haven’t been active in the media for a very long time, but I can safely say that I’m not going to be able to do that. Yes, there is a censorship process. However, this is not, as it seems, an outside demand for censorship. On the contrary, it is a self-censorship process. There is no doubt that in some periods we have heard the demands of the political authority and the work done in line with this demand. We even know our colleagues who lost their jobs in line with these demands. However, I think the main problem in the Turkish press is self-censorship. The problem of self-censorship sometimes comes from unwritten principles internalized by the structure in which you work, sometimes it is based on the customs and grandmothers of the society in which you live. I think the answer to compare censorship in Europe and America to our censorship is that, yes, censorship there is lighter. I think there are a few reasons for this; The first is that the democratic environment is established and rooted. Justice has a reliable corporate identity and principles. Another reason is that the profession of journalism has become highly technical. To put it differently, there is a sense of journalism that has been processed and developed like engineering.
A global publication such as Bloomberg Businessweek offers its global edits as a writing method, which includes news spelling guides. If I remember correctly, there’s a 400-page book. It’s a work that doesn’t leave anything in the news space to coincidence and personal ambition. Let me give you an even more concrete example; they’ve defined the maximum limit of a reporter’s gift from the source they’re reporting on. So when that limit is exceeded, they say that the authenticity of that story will be questioned and the reporter will lose his job. Now it’s hard to work in a professional environment like this, but it’s also easy. If you have developed a professional philosophy and methodology to control your field, you will not be censored or face an authority that can censor.
Turkey ranked about 100th in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index in 2005 and nearly 150th in 2013. Do you find these published reports and reviews realistic? Is there really a problem of press and journalist freedom in Turkey? Or is this partly about the way western institutions look at us?
I can’t comment on the figures you gave me because you haven’t had an assessment of the 2020s. Yes, I know I’ve done some data fetishism, but I’d be more comfortable if you’d told me the latest numbers. One of our main problems is the lack or lack of field measurements. What happened has a credibility problem. Today we are even discussing tuik’s figures. Moreover, we are sometimes skeptical of even the figures of the most reliable research institutions. Perhaps the reason behind this suspicion is that the described data is sorted according to the data set created according to a customer’s request. So it’s hard to vouch for the relationship and the innocence of the data basket that was created. Another issue is that the lack of reliable data baskets in Turkey causes foreign investors or organizations to turn to research themselves in the field. In fact, we know that there are many foreign research companies active in Turkey due to this need. I don’t think there’s any need to say the names of these companies here. It shouldn’t be difficult to say that these companies do a great deal of field research and tweezers the information they want from the field. We can say that they have the information they want, but we do not have any information on how they interpret it. When we dominate the data on the ground, then we can discuss whether the reports described are authentic.
When I got to the topic of press freedom, I was reminded of a question: According to the 2018 Digital News Report published by the Reuters Institute at the University of Oxford, Turkey is the country with the most disinformation and false news among the 37 countries. I wonder if we’re discussing the question of press freedom and censorship correctly. Isn’t there a contradiction here?
Actually, I partially answered that question. The main problem of the Turkish press is inequality and unemployment. That’s why we don’t have great professionals or master-level journalists. There are not many journalists who speak foreign languages and are familiar with the profession. The relevant departments of universities cannot produce graduates who will satisfy the field. The incomes obtained in the first years of the profession are not at the levels that will satisfy the new graduates. At least not when I was actively working. I don’t think much has changed today. Both incompetence, incompetence and incompetence have engulfed the sector, and it is normal for such news to come into play when the consistency of the ruling media relations or the passion of the opposition media to hurt comes into play.
I see that your question is an attempt to read backwards, and I think you’re right. It is possible to say that there are a few journalists who are leaning on the points I just mentioned. I don’t know how they’re trying to hold on to those principles. It is obvious that in order to normalize, we need to normalize law and justice. At least we’ll see a relative decline in this kind of news. If we want to see this news diminish, we need to take a look at advertising and marketing relationships. There are broadcasters that broadcast only with revenues from state banks and municipalities. Due to these relationships, it is impossible to expect an impartial news understanding with a correct or even more optimistic attitude.
“The media group, which is defined as the advocacy or Pool media, has a lot of broadcast space and opportunities, tools, and with it it distorts the truth by manipulating society. The opposition has limited opportunities, an internet publishing,” they claim. Is the opposition media really too weak in Turkey? What if you compare the opposition media in the 80s and 90s to those times when it was supported by large capital representing central power and ideology?
In fact, today we need to see that there are new media that will destabilize the structure we call the media. Of course I’m talking about social media. We also see that social media has a variety in terms of tools. In fact, we now see that the basic struggle is progressing in this medium. I recently thought of a post that went viral on social media again. It looked like it when you looked at a person who was a manager in the Ottoman Quarries or googled it. He had a speech saying they were fighting an army of 200,000 people and even taking over social media. Of course, these statements bind this person, but they also show us that there is a rational struggle going on there. In short, since the media has no credibility and credibility right now, everyone is loaded with alternative news sources. This also increases the intensity of false and insensitic news. The struggle in the ’80s and ’90s, unstable or looking for balance, doesn’t exist today. In fact, it can be said that; This struggle has moved to social media and the news capability produced by social media with relatively few possibilities is affecting social media more effectively. Here’s how we can look at it. Today’s struggle for power brings us back to life in another way. In other words, due to the position taken by the government, it always increases and keeps those who oppose it alive. I think we would be in a riskier situation if we faced the opposite of this disciplined and dictating attitude. In other words, a power that condemns itself, surrounds us, enthsholds and incorporates us as we say yes to our demands could be riskier and more destructive. Whatever happens, I don’t think the relationship with the media is one-sided. In other words, the media still determines the content it offers us according to our preferences. If this had not been the case, alternative reporting would not have developed.
Comparing the ’80s and ’90s to today doesn’t seem like the right idea to me…
I think that in this day and age the dissident media is much more widespread and powerful. In fact, I observe that dissent is a trend all over the world and that this trend does not want economic theories, politics, religion, similar institutions and the language produced by those institutions. However, I think that this opposition is also being manipulated and used by powerful traditional groups, political and economic circles. And I’m observing. How do you think it’s going? That’s my observation, but what about you?
Honestly, although I don’t agree with all of your opinions, I think you’re right. According to Foucault, power from the 17th century; it manifests itself not as the mortal power of an absolute, even god-like sovereign, but as a power of discipline. What does that mean? Discipline is based on keeping power alive, not killing it. Because for the industrial society or for more production, not to destroy but to create has dominated. Whether it is agricultural production or mass production that developed with the industrial revolution, this power change has been triggered and caused its transformation. As you know, the forms and roles of production have also determined our social structure and classes. The disciplinary power that shapes all areas of life has developed normative rules. In other words, calculated pressure is more effective than destruction. Disciplinary power; normalization is the power to normalize.
What is the opposition as of the point we have reached today? Or what is opposition? Or how far we are from the disciplinary power of the system, these are very controversial concepts. In the background of the use of a language of power by many structures that we see as opposition, I think that opposing or opposing as this government wants is what this power of discipline puts on the rails. In other words, the issue that you see as manipulation is actually nothing more than a different discourse produced by the power. If the government changes today, what do you think will change? What I mean is; In Turkey, the opposition is in power. On top of that, this oppositional voice gets louder in the echo chambers and reinforces itself with absolute righteousness. Another risk of this is that this language and structure, which thinks too much of itself, develops an imaginary world vision by assuming that it recognizes the power. Let’s remember the time elapsed after the government’s foreign exchange-indexed deposit operation. Let’s see the level of amazement of the opposition.
9-What awaits us about metaverse and the future of journalism? How do you think the use of news and journalism in digital environment will affect people and societies?
Can metaverse and journalism come together? We know that more than 1,500,000 people attended a concert with their avatars. With the development of augmented reality tools in the future, we may encounter new and different dimensions of journalism. But my hope is that Web 3.0 will kick in rather than Metaverse. Then we may encounter revolutionary journalism. This is a very different issue and one that needs to be seriously considered, and we are very early in the matter in that sense. We are at the very beginning of the issue as a country and as the press sector.
10-After all, is journalism really a profession that works for humanity? Or is it part of a hoax?
The right to information is a legal right and too important to be left to any monopoly. Even if this resource is the state… Journalism is a profession that will continue as long as the right to information is granted and the desire continues. The rational side of the story will continue to exist, of course. However, we can only mitigate the impact of this manipulation with the diversity and diversity of news sources. To stay away from manipulation or to believe that it is not rational is too optimistic, even naïve. Back to the subject, journalism will continue. Journalism will exist, whether it changes shape, formation or tools. Despite all its troubles and difficulties, it will exist, even if it distorts the truth or tries to make us part of a conditional world. In fact, even if he tries to cheat like you asked, he’ll still exist. I think the important thing here is to try to keep our concept of truth at a real and meaningful level.
Who is Baha Yilmaz:
He was born in Erzurum Turkey 1968. After completing his primary and secondary education in Erzurum, Turkey, he graduated from Gazi University I.I.B.F. Finance Department. He completed his master’s degree as an MBA at Istanbul City University Faculty of Business Administration. “Poetry and Cinema articles were published in journals such as Yenidergi, Araf, Eksen. He worked in the field of Documentary Cinema. Cine5 has served as broadcast director of broadcasters such as Channel A. He was a founding director and editor of Infomag, Bloomberg Businessweek, Skylife, Turkish Perspective magazines. TRTTürk and TimTV were content and founding editor-in-chief. He has been a director and consultant in public and private sector institutions such as TBMM, MUSIAD, TRT, ITO, ATO, TYB.