Court proceedings are dragging on in Turkey for 44 Kurdish media workers accused of supporting terrorism. While human rights groups say the trial, which opened in September, is an attempt to clamp down on free speech, the Turkish government maintains that some of the defendants are not actually journalists, but propagandists.
The trial, then, is grappling to define what makes a journalist?
No universally accepted definition appears to exist in Turkey. Unlike in many Western countries, Turkey has no deep-rooted tradition of journalism as a distinct profession, one seen as serving as a potential watchdog, or a check on governmental overreaching. Turkey’s first school of journalism, at Ankara University, opened only in 1965.
For many Turks, having an opinion that you express regularly in a media outlet is enough to make you a journalist – even if you work simultaneously as a researcher, academic, peace activist, or even government advisor.
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Justin Vela is a freelance reporter based in Istanbul.