June 19 2008
Online journalism is a new concept in Turkey. Previously, publications on the Internet were simply online versions of news stories already covered in the relevant newspaper or on the relevant television channel. Thus, it was inappropriate to label this activity ‘online journalism’, as such publications were merely repetitions of other publications.
Companies which engage in online journalism are organized in the same way as companies which publish printed newspapers. They employ journalists and editing staff, and often cooperate with news agencies. However, there are also many differences between printed newspapers and online newspapers. Newspapers on the Internet are published only online. As no printed copies are made, it is possible to update the news at a moment’s notice, allowing it to be‘re-pressed’ throughout the day. Moreover, most online newspapers are free.
Despite there being few differences in the way that online newspapers and printed newspapers are organized, applying legislation that pertains to the general press to online newspapers can lead to inequalities. Under Turkish law, there is no regulation directly providing legal grounds for online newspapers. Thus in practice, an online newspaper may sometimes be treated as a standard commercial entity rather than a press institution. For instance, in the case of defamation by publication, if such an act is committed via an internet journal, the relevant authorities may block internet access as a precautionary measure. In effect, application of such a measure would shut down the whole newspaper. On the other hand, if such an act were committed in a printed newspaper, it would lead only to the publication of a disclaimer.
In addition, reporters working for online newspapers cannot be named as journalists as per the relevant regulations, so they cannot be issued with yellow cards providing them with significant journalistic privileges.
One reason for not classing online newspapers as press institutions is the dispute over the distribution of revenue earned from advertisements. If online newspapers were considered to be press institutions, the Board of Press and Advertisement would have to distribute advertisements to online newspapers. Advertisements are distributed according to the circulation rate of newspapers. Since the circulation rate of online newspapers is calculated by considering the number of hits that the online newspaper receives, the rate of receiving advertisements for online newspapers would be significantly high. This would not be supported by printed newspaper owners. In any event, developments in this sector suggest that online journalism will take off soon.
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