TURKEY: Official Press Advertisement Agency cuts 2021 financial support for indigenous minority press

ISTANBUL – The official Turkish Press Advertisement Agency which provides financial aid to indigenous minority newspapers and media in Turkey, has, as reported by Armenian newspaper Agos, not announced such a formal decision for financial support in 2021 in its last meeting of the year on November 18, 2020. It was announced that the next meeting will be held in February 2021.

The Press Advertisement Agency is the authorized state institution for the distribution of official advertisements to newspapers and media. The official Turkish Press Advertisement Agency provides financial aid to indigenous minority newspapers and media in which itself does not officially advertise since 2011. Minority newspapers received official advertisements until the 1970s after which this was stopped by the government. In 2011, after Greek newspaper Apoyevmatini got into difficulties, the Press Advertisement Agency started annual financial support instead of advertising official ads.

Because of the coronavirus, indigenous minority newspapers have faced difficult times in 2020. Without financial aid from the Press Advertisement Agency, their publishing capabilities would be seriously curtailed. Agos reported that the reason why the Press Advertisement Agency stopped the financial support is not known, and that several indigenous minority media have called the Press Advertisement Agency in recent months demanded the annual aid be continued.

In its the previous decision on November 28, 2019, the institution decided that “Armenian, Greek and Jewish communities, which are regarded as minority under the Lausanne Peace Treaty, will support newspapers published in our country”.

Turkey doesn’t recognize the Syriacs as an indigenous minority under the Lausanne Treaty. In the words of Susanne Güsten in ‘A Farewell to Tur Abdin‘:

“Unlike Greeks, Armenians, and Jews, the Syriacs have never been recognized by the Turkish state as a non-Muslim minority under the Treaty of Lausanne. As a result, they were not granted even the limited minority rights accorded to those groups, such as schools and the right to safeguard their language and culture. The reason for this remains the subject of debate, but it does not change the fact that it constitutes a clear violation of both the letter and the spirit of the treaty by Turkey.”

Syriacs have struggled hard to achieve their basic rights in Turkey. As a result, in 2013, the Ankara 13th Administrative Court approved for Syriacs to open a school which can be seen as a recognition of Syriacs under Lausanne. But after decades of repression and denial, Syriacs have become almost non-existent in Turkey and their homeland Tur Abdin. Denying Syriac newspaper Gazete Sabro financial support will only make Syriacs more non-existent.