Silvia de Félix, journalist and international consultor in mass media and elections.
Which is the European journalists’ understanding of Turkey? Are they interested in Turkish politics and economy? At the same time, how does Turkish media reflect Europe and European Union concept?
At the very beginning of 2000, I had the opportunity to live and work in Ankara and Istanbul. I had to write a special monograph for the Spanish economic journal Expansión and, after, as a correspondent for Prisa Group (Spain). So, I know firsthand what it means practicing journalism from Turkey. At this moment, European journalists´ attention towards our Turkish neighbors is focused in the negotiations that are being held for Turkey to enter the European Union (EU). Conversations progress slowly, however, there are very active cooperation areas, as, for example, the fight against terrorism and irregular immigration or police and judicial cooperation. However, Turkish reality is wide and, unfortunately, has few impact in Spanish and European media. Turkey is a country with over 80 million people, an equivalent extension of France and Portugal, and with an incredible geographic and cultural variety. A wealth of which European press has not yet taken advantage of. On the other hand, interest for European studies and EU has decreased in Turkey. In part due to the slowness in conversations to approve Turkey adhesion as member of the European family. There is a lot left to tell about Turkish reality in Europe and vice versa.
Don´t you think Turkish population could be more interested in Europe if they were informed about European assistance programs and about economic funds for cooperation?
It could be, yes. From a geographical, political and economic point of view, Turkey is part of Europe. Germany is its main exporting partner. Turkey looks towards Europe when it has to set agreements in matters of commerce, investment and technology. Turkish citizens should be better updated about European programs and about the possibility of gaining access to European funds to carry out cooperation projects. As a matter of fact, since 2005, I regularly take part in international projects related with democratization and human rights supported by the EU and this is something totally unknown for the public. The lack of knowledge about these projects and the financial instruments is not only media responsibility. Community institutions should activate more information channels and spread its announcements in a more effective way.
Human Rights respect is one of the foundational principles of the European Union. Preserving these Rights is determinant to get financed projects supported by the 28?
For sure. Bilateral agreements between EU and other countries include a clause for what the receiver country commits to preserve fundamental rights. In case of non fulfillment, the EU can appreciate the possibility of diminishing or suspending aids for cooperation and development. In the last ten years, I have taken part in more than 15 observations, advising and electoral assistance missions with the EU. The spirit of these projects is going with the countries that are working to consolidate its democracy in the way towards solid political systems in order to ensure fundamental rights and liberties. Electoral observation is, moreover, a very good instrument at valuing the civil liberties respect. Reports obtained from electoral observation can be afterwards considered by European diplomatic services in order to adopt decisions in matter of cooperation.
In which way it could be improved interaction among European journalists? Could it help them having video and audio materials about Europe to perform their international informations?
There are no barriers at the internet era. Journalists can exchange information, dates, opinions and contents through different platforms in social media. The obstacles are given by the different languages shaping Europe, although English has strengthened as the main language. Video and audio are essential contents for journalists. Radio cuts are accompanied by text and photographs, videos are held by written word. Complementarity of information supports gains special relevance thanks to the flexibility that offers publishing information on line. European institutions daily produce a great amount of information, barely able to be digested. As an example, only remind that Brussels is the capital with a greatest number of authorized foreign correspondents, more than Washington DC. European Audiovisual Service Europe by Satellite (EbS), for which I had the opportunity to work thanks to an European Commission grant, provides European information through video, audio and photograph resources. It is an essential tool for every journalist interested in following community emerging issues.
Picture: Journalist Silvia de Félix, in the quality of press responsible, presents in a press conference the European Union Electoral Observation Mission spread out in Guinea to follow the latest elections.