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Minority language newspapers in Turkey in financial bottleneck as state aid cut

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The prospects of the survival of minority language newspapers in Turkey look dimmer after the country’s Press Advertising Agency (BİK) failed to make a decision for the continuation of state aid to these newspapers for the year 2021, the Birgün daily reported.

BİK, the state body responsible for regulating publicly funded advertisements in the media, held its last general assembly of 2020 on Nov. 18, during which it was supposed to decide on the continuation of state aid to minority language newspapers but failed to do so.

Media outlets run by minorities were exempted from publishing official advertisements from BİK in 2011. After the Greek newspaper Apoyevmatini got into financial difficulties in 2011, BİK started providing annual financial support to minority language newspapers instead of allowing them to publish official ads.

Overwhelmed by financial problems and the rising cost of the publishing costs during the coronavirus pandemic, minority newspapers had actually called on BİK to provide its financial support earlier, but the agency instead cut it completely.

“Minority language newspapers have been struggling to survive under the [difficult] circumstances [caused by] the pandemic, particularly after the months of April and May,” said Yetvart Danzikyan, editor-in-chief of the Armenian weekly newspaper Agos.

Danzikyan said BİK has not provided any reason for the cutting of funds to minority language newspapers, adding that the agency’s decision will make it even more difficult for these media outlets to continue operating.

According to Mihail Vasiliadis, editör-in-chief of Apoyevmatini, said depriving newspapers run by minorities of the right to publish official ads was wrong in the first place.

“Who has a right to publish official ads than a newspaper of 96 years, I don’t know. We were later supported financially through foundations. We did not want to accept the help at first, but we needed it,” said the 81-year-old Vasiliadis, noting that foundations had also cut their support to the newspapers over time.

The Greek language Apoyevmatini is one of the oldest of İstanbul’s minority-language papers while Agos, whose editor-in-chief Hrant Dink was murdered in 2007, is published in Armenian and Turkish. The Salom newspaper serves the country’s Jewish community.

Apoyevmatini was founded by Vasiliadis’ uncles Konstantinos and Antonis in 1925. It is run by Vasiliadis and his son today.

Complaining about the rising price of paper, Vasiliadis said while the cost of publishing is increasing, their revenues are decreasing.

“Is it so difficult to tell us that we will give this amount of financial aid to you on this date?” he asked.

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