Turkish Press Council was officially established on February 6, 1988. The “Press Council Contract” was signed by 28 newspapers, 22 magazines, 11 news agencies, 6 broadcasters, and 6 press organs. The Council has operated uninterruptedly since.
The Press Council is not organized as an association in the legal sense. It is an NGO with no legal personality of its own, and works on a voluntary basis. However, the “Press Council and Solidarity Association” was established as a legal entity on August 9, 1988 in order to meet the financial needs of the council. This entity presents to the state's regulators its income, expenditures, and expenses for inspection. This organ was transformed into a foundation (the Press Council and Solidarity Foundation) in later years. This foundation has a separate executive board from the Press Council High Council.
The work of the Press Council rests on three legal texts:
(i) Press Council Contract This is the primary text that regulates the structure and boards of the council, and their composition, election, duties, and authorities. According to Article 2, TPC has two main organs: the Press Council Board of Members (BKÜK) and the Press Council High Council (BKYK).
The BKÜK's ordinary meeting takes place once a year. This meeting resembles the general meeting/plenary session of associations.
The BKYK comprises elected members (some of whom are members of the press, others are not journalists),; journalists that represent owners, or their delegates, of media outlets; the Presidents of the three Journalists Associations with the most members from among the outlets that have agreed to the Principles of the Press Occupation and the Press Council Contract, or a representative selected by the Executive Board; the President of the Journalists Union with the highest membership figures, or a representative selected by the Executive Board; the President or representative of an association or union representing media employers; a representative from the Union of Turkish Bar Associations and representatives assigned by the Executive Boards of the three bars with the highest membership figures. The High Council (BKYK) convenes twice a month; however, in the months of July and August, it only meets once. Having said that, it is also possible to hold special meetings as the need arises. Furthermore, some of the meetings take place outside of Istanbul, in the various regions of Turkey. The duties of the BKYK are listed in Article 11, with the most important being that it must investigate when necessary all complaints concerning breaches of journalistic principles. TPC does not have an independent organ to address claims of violations.
(ii) Press Professional Principles: This text determines the ethical rules that apply to journalistic activities. The English text can be found at: https://www.basinkonseyi.org.tr/professional-principles-of-the-press/
(iii) Procedures for Evaluating the Press Council's Rules and Applications: This document is a kind of “bylaw” and arranges the details of the decision-making process concerning complaints entering the Press Council's field of work. According to Article 10 of the procedures, the BKYK is to decide on applications concerning the practices and accusations involving the following:
- All press (media) outlets producing written, audio, and video content published/broadcast in Turkey,
- All mass communication outlets engaged in internet broadcasting,
- Broadcasts independent journalists,
- Occupational practices of journalists,
- Journalists and mass communication outlets included above and others (such as public institutions or authorities).
As can be seen, the council accepts complaints concerning both media outlets that are members and those that are not. No differentiation is made between media outlets engaged in written or audio-visual broadcasting. Likewise, internet broadcasts are included; an amendment pushed through in 2002 included “websites that engage in journalism.”
How to complain
It is sufficient that any person appropriately applies (by petition, via phone or the Internet) to the Press Council on a matter which s/he deems worthy of complaint. The applications of organizations, which have the authority to represent a certain profession or community, related to relevant sections of the society are also taken into account. Complaints may only relate to publications made in the two prior to the date of application.
The Secretary-General informs the reporter and the institution of the complaint after receiving the application, and requests a response. S/he tries to reconcile the parties; and if this is not possible, brings the report and the file to the High Council meeting.
The Supreme Board of the Press Council holds a meeting with the participation of at least 11 members and discusses the matter. Decisions are taken by the majority of those present. Each member has one vote. A vote only reflects the opinion of its owner. No-one can abstain during voting. The member of the High Council cannot participate in the negotiations for complaints related to the institution s/he represents, and cannot vote.
An application has to be settled (decided upon) within two months from the date of the application.
The decisions of the High Council are definitive. However, an extraordinary appeal could be made within 15 days from the announcement of the decision on the grounds that a material error was made in the first examination or an evidence presented by the complainant and the complainee was not evaluated. A Board consisting of the President, the Vice President and the Secretary-General submit the Report related to the appeal to the High Council. The relevant parties are invited to the High Council's meeting where the report related to the appeal is discussed. The High Council makes an assessment after hearing the participating parties. The initial decision can be changed by the votes of at least 2/3 of the participants in the meeting.