Facing Adversity as a Journalist in Turkey
“Being a journalist in the southeastern region of Turkey is challenging and risky. It becomes almost impossible to do your job.”
The story of Yılmaz
Yılmaz is a journalist from Turkey who worked for various media outlets, including newspapers, TV channels, and news agencies. Despite facing challenges and risks as a dissident journalist in Southeast Turkey, he continued his career and covered events within and outside the country. Yılmaz had to leave Turkey in 2022 due to occupational problems, and he is now seeking asylum in the Netherlands. This is his story.
I Touched the Life
“My name is Yılmaz, and I was born in a Kurdish city in Turkey located on the border with Syria. My father worked as a government official, which led our family to relocate to another Kurdish city in 1990. There, I completed my primary and secondary education, ultimately graduating in 1996. Following graduation, I worked in factories until I started university. In the year 2000, I took the university entrance examination and was awarded a full scholarship to study journalism in the communication faculty at Cyprus International University.
“Everything works in the interests of the government. Absolutely intolerable to a different sound.”
Life as a journalist on Cyprus
Living on an island like Cyprus was an amazing experience, with its stunning beaches, warm climate, and friendly locals. During the six years I spent there, I witnessed a lot and made some great Cypriot friends. It was also there that I began my journalism career.
In the early 2000’s, while in my third year of university, I began working as a correspondent and page designer for a newspaper in Cyprus. Due to my background and personal experiences, I was drawn to social issues and their solutions. I primarily covered news related to the problems faced by marginalized groups such as women, children, workers, the elderly, and cases of political injustice.
Challenges and Growth
Initially, I started my career as a page designer while simultaneously reading and attempting to write news articles. Through hard work and dedication, I was eventually able to prepare pages and write news within a few months. I continued with this routine for approximately two years while also attending school.
However, there were challenges along the way. Some of the dissenting news articles I wrote drew the attention of extremist nationalists, who retaliated with offensive and threatening pieces against me, even though I was a new journalist. I soon realized that when discussing topics that people prefer to ignore or overlook, such reactions were not uncommon. Despite these challenges, I remained committed to covering important issues that affected the community.
From newspaper to TV
In 2003, I had the opportunity to complete an internship at one of Turkey’s most prestigious newspapers. This experience allowed me to meet with prominent journalists who continue to shape the country’s current affairs. After graduating from university in 2006, I continued to work for a year in Cyprus before returning to Turkey and settling in Istanbul. There, I worked for both a newspaper and magazine. However, due to some family issues, I had to move back to my hometown, where I started working for a TV channel as a correspondent. Working in TV journalism was a new and exciting experience for me. I spent five years working for TV before transitioning to the role of a general editor at a newspaper.
But l did.
Reporting on Syrian War and Starting a Family
In 2011, the Syrian civil war began, and I reported on some of the events from both the border and within Syria. In August 2009, I got married to a kindergarten teacher. We now have three amazing children.
In 2015, however, I was fired from my job at the newspaper because my boss had an agreement with the government party, and I was deemed undesirable due to my dissenting views. However, I did not give up on my career and worked as a freelance journalist for various publishing and broadcasting companies, including newspapers, TV channels, and news agencies. I also provided press and public relations services for several non-governmental organizations. In 2019, due to some occupational problems, I had to move again and began working as a cameraman and correspondent for a news agency, covering social events and protests. I spent a year working at the Parliament of Turkey before being assigned to follow various social events and protests.
However, at the end when I stopped and looked at the past, I could see that it is not possible to talk about freedom of the press in Turkey due to the unlawful arrests and trials of journalists in Turkey in recent months. The law no longer works properly, the judiciary is not independent, and unfortunately there is no freedom of thought and opinion. Everything works in the interests of the government. Absolutely intolerable to a different sound.
So In January 2022, I left the agency and Turkey.”