Press members skeptical of media integrity in Turkey, poll suggests

Press members skeptical of media integrity in Turkey, poll suggests

May 05, 2007, Saturday/ 20:18:00/ E. BARIŞ ALTINTAŞ
The Turkish media has little trust in itself, as a survey conducted by Boğaziçi University Professor Yılmaz Esmer as part of the Quality of Democracy research project, found out.
The project is currently being conducted in seven countries and looks into the values, attitudes, beliefs, and behavior of the parliamentarian elite and media elite in these seven countries.

Soon results from surveys with the political and media elite will be available for comparison with the political preferences of the general public.

In the Turkish leg of the media elite survey, 226 journalists, including editors-in-chief, managing editors, news editors, columnists, producers, reporters, anchormen, and representatives from the capital, from 23 newspapers and 12 national television channels, were interviewed by students from Boğaziçi University.

In this survey, which is the most comprehensive research on values and attitudes of the Turkish media so far, 79 percent of the respondents were males while the remaining 21 percent were females. Some 40 percent of the respondents were above 40 years of age, while 36 percent were between ages 24 and 39. Those ageing above 57 were at 24 percent. An overwhelming 95 percent had a university degree while only five percent were high school graduates.  

Media professionals are mostly content

In response to the questionnaire section on personal happiness, 26 percent said they were “very happy” while 57 percent described themselves as being “somewhat happy.” 13 percent said “not so happy,” while only four percent said “not happy at all.”

In response to questions on social values, 98 percent said the family was “very important”, followed by “friends and acquaintances” at 85 percent. “Career” was very important to 80 percent of the respondents while 56 percent said “politics” was very important. Some 46 percent said “leisure time” was very important, while 32 percent said “religion” was very important to them.

Trust in people and institutions

The survey notes that in general polls show that the Turkish society is not hot on “trusting others.” However, media members of the country seem to be radically different from the society with 40 percent of the 226 participants replying “most people can be trusted” to a question inquiring as to whether other people could be trusted.

Among the 18 state agencies named, 24.3 percent of the participants trust the army most, followed by those who have complete trust in the Constitutional Court at 19.2 percent. The Turkish parliament was most trusted by 13.1 percent. Political parties, bureaucrats, labor unions and the government ranked at the bottom of the list of trusted institutions. Interestingly enough, only three percent of those who were asked said they had full confidence in the media.

In reply to a question inquiring into where they would rate themselves along a political axis of the left and the right, 48 percent said they were “left,” 32 percent said they were in the “middle,” while 19 percent said they were on the “right.” Researcher Keser notes that the tendency for the media elite to have more left leanings in comparison to the larger population conforms with the global examples.

The section of the survey inquiring into democratic values of the respondents showed that the media elite are fervent supporters of the democratic system. A significantly high number of the participants said the importance of living in a democratic system for them was an “indispensable necessity.”

Although most of the respondents highlighted human rights, freedoms, the right of universal suffrage and minority rights as the defining factors of a democracy, an important portion of the participants stressed that economic growth, fair distribution of income and meeting people’s fundamental needs are elements which they directly associated with democracy.

A question inquiring into respondents’ assessment of the democratic system in Turkey found that not a single one of the participants thinks that the country has a flawless democracy. None of the 226 participants rated Turkey’s democracy at 10 out of 10, while only 2 rated Turkey’s democracy at nine points out of 10. The average score Turkish democracy earned was 5.37 points out of 10.

The survey also found that the media elite are skeptical about whether everybody got the same treatment in court in cases of crime or corruption. Most believe that elected political leaders, public servants and managers in high profile private companies would get away with the crime of bribery.

About 70 percent of the media elite said they did not agree with the sentence “Politicians who don’t believe in God are not worthy of the job,” while 18 percent said they agreed. An overwhelming 85 percent said they agreed with the sentence, “Men of religion and religious leaders should not have influence over the electorate’s vote,” while 10 percent said they did not agree. Some 69 percent said they didn’t believe that having more religious people in the administration would be for the good of the country. Again, 87 percent said they were against influence of religious leaders and men of religion on decisions made by the government, while 9 percent said they were for this influence. Only four percent said they believed the press in Turkey was completely free, while 63 percent said monopolization in the press was the major reason of restrictions on the press.

However, 59 percent of media members said they believed there had to be some sort of restriction on publishing news stories pertaining to private lives of politicians, while 52 percent said “destructive,” and “separatist” comments had to be at least partially restricted. Some 67 percent said that obscene pictures and articles had to be partially restricted, while 55 percent believed that news stories about terrorist events had to be somewhat restricted. An overwhelming majority said the same thing of violence and murder news.

Some 51 percent said they favored restrictions on articles critical of religion or articles against rules of religion, while 9 percent said such editorials should be banned altogether.

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