The Reflection of Alimony Debate on Turkish Newspapers   

Nazlı Kazanoğlu

Despite the common pronouncements of the death of journalism during the late 1980s and early 1990s due to increased use of social media, newspapers have not gone anywhere, and they continue to play a crucial role in the media landscape in most societies.  In 2010, newspapers could still regularly command a daily reading audience of over 100 million in the United States and 20 million in the United Kingdom (Gray and Lotz, 2019). Therefore, it is still fair to argue that journalism, defined as a business or practice of producing and disseminating information about the contemporary affairs of general, public interest and importance, is still one of the most popular mass media tools. In other words, despite the rapid growth of alternative media tools, we cannot deny the role of newspapers in shaping and reshaping people’s opinions, and constructing, especially young people’s, identities. On the other hand, there is one more undeniable reality, which is the effects of politics and hegemonic ideology on journalism. Since the end of the liberal era and with the growth of capitalism, journalism has lost its freedom and become a tool to reproduce a certain ideology (Kazanoğlu, 2016). As Karl Bücher put forward:

“…Newspapers changed from mere institutions for the publication of news into bearers and leaders of public opinion-weapons of party politics…” (1964: 53).

As people have very limited time and limited cognitive resources to seek information today, they mostly rely on the information offered by the newspapers.  However, what is reported is unfortunately not a pure and objective reality. Instead they are manufactured goods, the products of political institutions and more precisely, an illusion of a certain ideology. As Levi-Strauss (1958) notes, all media-texts have ideologies behind them. While certain paradigms are encoded into media texts, others are left out (Levi-Strauss, 1958). What paradigms those are and to whom they belong are the main issues requiring analysis within media studies. Thus, it is always necessary to ask and illustrate whose reality we are reading.

Accordingly, this brief post aims to analyse the news framing of the Turkish government’s attempts to change the existing alimony law. In the achievement of this aim, the news stories published in six different Turkish newspapers deemed to be carrying different ideologies (Bianet, T24, Hürriyet, Cumhuriyet, Sözcü and Yeniakit) between January 2019 and January 2020 were analysed on the basis of two sub-topics: (a) source of information and (b) the language used in the news and headlines. While Bianet, T24 and Cumhuriyet were chosen to exemplify alternative journalism and were expected to reflect the opposing groups’ views, Sözcü and Hürriyet were chosen to exemplify populist journalism and finally, Yeni Akit was chosen due to its critical stand towards the alimony debate.

The proposed change in alimony law in Türkiye

In 2016, the Turkish Grand National Assembly released the report prepared by the Assembly Research Commission which was founded in order to investigate the factors affecting family integrity, to determine the measures to be taken for reducing divorce rates and for strengthening the family institution[1]. One of the solutions that the report offered was to change the existing alimony law. Since 1988, Article 176 of Turkish Civil Code provides the spouse who risks poverty after divorce the right to demand alimony for an unlimited time period (Başpınar, 2003). Shortly after, in August 2018 the government introduced the first 100-day plan of the new presidential system, which included a clause on the alimony law amendment (Karakuş, 2018). According to this proposed amendment, alimony would be paid for a maximum of five years after the divorce rather than for an unlimited period.

It took almost no time at all for this amendment proposal to turn into a very heated debate between civil society organisations and politicians identifying themselves as feminist on the one hand, and some civil society organisations and politicians identifying themselves as conservative on the other. While the first group saw this as a threat to women’s rights and argued that it would discourage women to leave any possible abusive situations, the latter group believed that the amendment would reduce the divorce rates and strengthen the family institution. Since then, both sides have relied on various newspapers to advocate their arguments. Given the biased nature of Turkish journalism, it is important to illustrate how these two opposing arguments are framed in different newspapers which this post proceeds with.

Alimony Right Women’s Platform[2] vs. Unlimited Alimony Victims’ Platform[3]

People tend to include quotes in their speeches because they want to gain the approval of others, whilst also convincing them of a certain argument. In a similar vein, the news creators also attempt to provide quotes in their posts. Yet, as the news stories are illusions of certain ideologies, the news creators purposely choose whose words to quote. When it comes to the alimony debate, various members of the two opposing platforms (alimony right women’s platform and unlimited alimony victims’ platform) were the main sources of information. As their name signifies, the Alimony Right Women’s Platform stood against the amendment and have organised various lobbying activities and awareness raising events, all highlighting the importance of alimony rights. Whereas, the Unlimited Alimony Victims’ Platform stood in favour of the amendment, and their activities focused not only on showing how unlimited alimony is increasing the divorce rates but also on convincing people that unlimited alimony is putting people under financial difficulties by providing real life examples. According to the findings of our 1-year content analysis, T24, Bianet, Hürriyet, Cumhuriyet and Sözcü gave no coverage of the views of the Unlimited Alimony Victims’ Platform and referred only to Alimony Right Women’s Platform members, while Yeni Akit that presents a relatively more critical stand towards the alimony debate quoted only the Unlimited Alimony Victims’ Platform members.

The longer the debate stayed on the news agenda, the more newspapers started adding new information sources. While changing from one newspaper to another, these sources were women’s rights activists, members of political parties, various well-known lawyers and interestingly, national and international divorced celebrities. T24, Bianet and Cumhuriyet kept their information sources quite narrow and referred only to women’s rights activists, feminist lawyers and feminist politicians, who are all against the amendment proposal. Although Hürriyet and Sözcü had never mentioned the Unlimited Alimony Victims’ Platform, their information sources were relatively wider. Whilst fewer when compared to Yeni Akit, they also gave coverage to AKP and MHP members’ views. They also approached the issue from a magazinish angle. They included the views of both national and international celebrities on alimony law itself, as well as mentioning the actual amount of the maintenance into their news agenda.

Who is the victim? Alimony claimant or alimony creditor?

Another point worth discussing is the victim. While all newspapers have shown one of the spouses as the victim of the divorce, which spouse they chose to portray as the victim varied from one newspaper to another. The narrative used in Yeni Akit clearly and consistently showed the alimony creditor – mainly men in the current Turkish context- as the victim. The authors of the newspaper regularly argue that unlimited alimony would create severe economic problems for the alimony creditor. The real-life examples given by the authors are usually extreme cases such as a disabled husband who was asked to pay alimony that is two times higher than his monthly income for 33 years, or a wife who requested all the jewellery worn at the wedding.

On the contrary, T24, Bianet and Cumhuriyet authors argued that the amendment would exacerbate women’s already disadvantaged positions. They reminded the reader of Turkish women’s dependent positions. They argued that in the current Turkish context, many Turkish women are not only economically dependent on their husbands but that they also benefit from social security measures through their husbands. With the amendment proposal being accepted, these women would not only fall short economically, but they would also lose their rights to social security measures. Furthermore, these newspapers regularly stressed how modest the alimony amounts are and even women who have already gained the right to receive a certain amount of alimony by court are facing significant problems in receiving them. These three newspapers, which are more sensitive to women’s rights when compared to others, also voiced their concerns about the potential intensification of domestic violence. They repeatedly warned the government and amendment supporters that the elimination of unlimited alimony would compel women to stay in abusive and violent marriages.

Finally, contrary to Yeni Akit or to these three gender sensitive newspapers, Sözcü and Hürriyet did not show one particular spouse as the victim. News stories published in these two populist newspapers involved real-life examples of both victimised women and victimised men. While one day they stood beside the disabled alimony creditor who was obliged to pay alimony, which is two times higher than his monthly income, the next day they stood beside a divorced woman who is fighting for her alimony right in order to financially sustain both her own and her children’s lives.

Concluding remarks

Despite the rapid growth of alternative media tools, newspapers still appear as a significant source of information for people who seek information about divorce related issues. Yet, as exemplified above, the very same issue has been presented from very different angles in each newspaper, which stems from the socio-political stance of the news creator. Therefore, this brief post encourages newspaper readers to be more sceptical under these circumstances, where journalism has lost its objectivity and its ability to mirror the reality.


Başpınar, V. (2003). Türk Medeni Kanunu ile Aile Hukukunda Yapılan Değişiklikler ve Bu Konuda

Bazı Önerilerimiz. Ankara Üniversitesi Hukuk Fakültesi Dergisi, 52(3).

Gray, J., & Lotz, A. D. (2019). Television studies. Oxford: John Wiley & Sons.

Habermas, J., Lennox, S., & Lennox, F. (1964). The public sphere: An encyclopedia article (1964). New

German Critique, (3), 49-55.

Karakuş, A. (09 Haziran 2018) Nafakaya kademeli süreler ve alt-üst sınır geliyor. Milliyet. Last visited: 9th of March, 2020.

Kazanoğlu, N. (2016). Representation of the dominant political ideology within a cartoon series: A

Turkish case. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 17(3), 22-34.

Lévi-Strauss, C. (1958). Structural anthropology. Paris: Plon.

[1] “Aile Bütünlüğünü Olumsuz Etkileyen Unsurlar ile Boşanma Olaylarının Araştırılması ve Aile Kurumunun Güçlendirilmesi İçin Alınması Gereken Önlemlerin Belirlenmesi Amacıyla Kurulan Meclis Araştırması Komisyonu Raporu”, available at:

[2] Nafaka Hakkı Kadın Platformu

[3] Süresiz Nafaka Mağdurları Platformu