The Turkish press gets breaks never accorded the U.S. news media, according to Yener Arioglu, Washington correspondent for the Turkish radio and television network.
Each veteran reporter is given a government press card allowing free transit on all state-run buses, trains and airplanes, a 60 percent reduction on telephone charges and special priority on all calls. After 20 years' of work, a reporter's card is valid even after retirement.
"It's even good if you're writing from prison," Arioglu said.
Like many nations, Turkey has a highly ambivalent attitude toward the media. Politicians worldwide hope the press will be a cheering section, and are annoyed by the inevitable raspberries.
But even the most sophisticated foreign embassies tend to see reporters here as they usually view them back home: probable enemies if they are not known to be friends, underpaid partisans of one conspiracy or another and tools to be purchased, needing grease and flattery.
To the State Department, aware of these traditions, foreign media can be pipelines to the governments and people it is trying to influence, another weapon in the diplomatic battle.
The Greeks, for example, have few equals in the quality and quantity of written and personal attention lavished on the U.S. press, as they keep in regular touch with 250 Washington journalists, according to press counselor Luis Danos.
"This is a country where you have to talk to be heard. If you don't, they forget you," he said.
The Turks have nothing remotely similar, and tend to assume--from bitter experience, they say--that U.S. journalists are mostly out to get them. The Turkish press has been totally free and totally censored at various times, and ranges from simple-minded, scurrilous and blatantly political to analytical and relatively ponderous. Its journalists have been jailed frequently.
The Turks therefore deal with the free press here as though walking through a mine field. They give out information with apparent reluctance. Only this May did they open an information office, "designed to be a mini-U.S. Information Agency," director Murat Sungar said. He sits in on most interviews with embassy officials, often answering questions for them.
Journalists here from every country complain unanimously that they have more trouble than their U.S. colleagues in getting through to U.S. officials, except when it suits the officials. For example, M. Ali Birand, a respected political analyst for Milliyet, Turkey's second-largest daily, had written critically from Brussels of the new agreement between Turkey and the United States on refurbishing 14 air bases and building two others.
He was concerned that the pact went beyond Turkey's NATO commitment and would bind Turkey too closely to U.S. policy in the region, a view privately held by many high-level Turks. When Birand came here, he was given the full treatment: a private briefing from the administration's two top officials on the eastern Mediterranean, Assistant Secretary of State Richard R. Burt and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard N. Perle.
Later, he was leaked a document that he said helped modify his views.
"They all knew that to convince me is the end of the criticism. I was the only one complaining in print," he said.
Another writer, Tuna Koprulu, is a one-woman whirlwind who writes almost daily front-page pieces from Washington for Hurriyet, Turkey's semi-scandalous largest circulation daily. A Washingtonian for 17 years, she covers everything from President Reagan's trips to foreign-policy briefings to the Turks' social life, keeping close track of the growing Turkish-American lobbying efforts. She is very well read.
When she reported on a death threat to organizers of a gathering in Atlanta as a "storm of threats," about half of the people who had been planning to attend did not come, according to the organizers.
Foreign media also have part-time correspondents here, such as Leslie Finer, a Briton who worked for 15 years in Greece as a correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corp. He writes analyses for the Greek daily Kathimerini and works part-time as a translator for the Greek Embassy.
Turkey's single radio and television network, fully state controlled since 1972, is enjoying an audience boom as Turkish workers in Europe bring television sets, radios and video cassette recorders home.
Correspondent Arioglu wants to set up a full bureau in Washington but, like many foreign journalists, he sends his stories by telephone or telex and ships film for feature stories to California to be adapted days later for Turkish technology. "You can't do daily news that way," he said.
His main problem is that his salary is frozen in Turkey because of rigid exchange controls. So Arioglu also has another job as a Turkish-language broadcaster for the Voice of America.
Neither he nor his employers sees any conflict of interest in this, for the output in both cases is controlled. To become one of the 10 VOA employes on the Turkish desk, Arioglu had to pass a security clearance and a translation test, proving that he could translate and accurately summarize English-language news stories given him to broadcast.
But his report for the Turkish network passes different tests. After a congressional hearing in which Turkey was strongly criticized for allegedly violating the human rights of its political prisoners and Greek residents, he said that his story "won't stress the Greek position. They wouldn't understand at home."