Civil Pages is making the civil society’s experience visible through civil society journalism

Civil Society and Media Studies Association (Civil Pages – Sivil Toplum ve Medya Çalışmaları Derneği) received grant and capacity development support from our Institutional Fund to strengthen its financial sustainability by diversifying its income sources while using civil society journalism to make the work of civil society organisations more visible.

Read below our interview:

As an organisation focusing on civil society journalism, what issues do you expect to come to the forefront of the civil society agenda in 2022?

Political, economic, and social developments at global, national, and local levels inevitably affect civil society directly and/or indirectly. In this context, in 2022, we expect topics such as legislative provisions restricting freedoms of expression and association, new advocacy methods in the shrinking civic space, the contribution of civil society to the democratic system, anti-refugee tendencies, the effects of the economic crisis and pandemic on the civic space, interdisciplinary cooperation in the fields of climate crisis and disasters to be on the agenda. In addition, we hope that newly emerging forms of civil organisations will be on the agenda, instead of the traditional legal entities, which will enable generation Z and young people to participate more in the civic space.

How does the rapidly changing agenda in Turkey affect civil society? Can civil society organisations (CSOs) with expertise in different fields make their voices heard in this intense agenda?

Turkey’s busy agenda, which sometimes changes within days or even hours, has a negative impact on civil society. In recent years, the phrase “shrinking civic space” is directly linked to the changing political climate in Turkey and the existence of a democratic environment favourable to civil society. Especially the rights-based CSOs in the fields of women’s and LGBTI+ rights, human rights and the environment continue their activities under much more difficult conditions, and the State of Emergency and the ensuing pandemic further restricted the civic space.

CSOs, which are indispensable elements of a democratic system, strive to maintain their existence despite increasing polarisation and political pressure in recent years.

Despite all these negativities, we cannot ignore that women’s and human rights CSOs continue to work with resilience in an environment where legislation and practices that narrow freedom of expression and association intensify. CSOs, which are indispensable elements of a democratic system, strive to maintain their existence despite increasing polarisation and political pressure in recent years.

It is difficult to say that these problems in civil society and the successful work of CSOs are adequately reflected in the public opinion. The level of the Turkish public’s awareness of the importance of and participation in civil society is low compared to developed democracies. Research also reveals that society has limited awareness of the activities of CSOs. For all these reasons, it seems quite difficult for CSOs with different specialisations to find a place in Turkey’s busy, changing and “urgent” prioritised agenda, and when they do, to have the expected impact.

In 2021, you organised trainings on civil society journalism in several cities across Turkey. Can you tell us about the purpose of these trainings? How do you think the spread of civil society journalism will contribute to the civic space and the media?

In September 2021, we organised civil society journalism trainings in six cities from different regions of Turkey (Trabzon, Samsun, Gaziantep, Van, Konya and Çanakkale). Representatives of CSOs and local journalists participated in our trainings, which were shaped by the understanding of rights-based journalism. With the trainings, we aimed to focus on the ethical values and principles (not using sexist language, child rights-oriented news writing, etc.) required for journalism and creating content for the local and national media. In line with this goal, we showed the practical methods that CSOs can use when preparing press releases and news texts. While preparing the training content, we created a system that combines theory and practice. In addition, after the trainings, we included the contents prepared by the participants on the Civil Pages website. We are still in contact and collaborating with the participants.

It seems quite difficult for CSOs with different specialisations to find a place in Turkey’s busy, changing and “urgent” prioritised agenda, and when they do, to have the expected impact.

As Civil Pages, we believe that the spread of civil society journalism in Turkey will play an important role in raising awareness about the civic space, increasing support for CSOs, and will make a great contribution to the development of rights-based journalism.

Which organisational development areas will you focus on with the grant we are providing from our Institutional Fund? What kind of work do you plan to do in this context?

With this grant, our goal is to design a fundraising strategy in line with the structure and mission of our association. For this, the organisational memory, structure, vision and mission statements, and goals of the organisation must complement each other. With this grant, we will fully illustrate our organisational capacity, and try to achieve a sustainable structure in line with our opportunities and needs. Establishing an organisational memory, determining a sustainable fundraising strategy, and designing self-sustainable programs such as training and guidance that will benefit the civic space is among the activities we aim to realise with this grant.

You aim to diversify your income sources. What fundraising opportunities exist for digital journalism platforms?

Fundraising for digital journalism platforms while maintaining their independence is a hot topic in the field of “alternative media” in recent years. Civil Pages continues its broadcasting activities in a niche area such as civil society journalism, mainly with international funding. An assessment of Civil Pages’ fundraising and resource diversification is closely tied to the financial constraints that are among the biggest structural problems of both civil society and the media in Turkey.

Civil Pages strives to diversify its resources both as a media organ and as the Civil Society and Media Studies Association. In this context, we closely follow the developments in both the new media and civil society at the national and international level, explore cooperation opportunities and continue our efforts to diversify our resources.

About Civil Pages

Civil Pages aims to make the experiences and work of civil society organisations in Turkey more visible to public authorities, media, and other CSOs using civil society journalism. For this purpose, Civil Pages provides a platform for CSOs where they can start or participate in discussions, share ideas, and express their opinions, and draws attention to both the thematic and cultural diversity existing in civil society in Turkey.