Turkish media has long been suffering from state involvement in media’s freedom. Over the years Turkish people have heard the PM Erdogan call for a boycott of media sources that are critical of his policies and basically any columnist who evaluated the government’s performance and reflected poorly onto the negative outcomes were declared a personal nemesis. Usually these incidents ended with Erdogan asking the media bosses kindly to let go of those columnists or editors, which happened to be the case for some journalists in the last decade.
Most recently when media played along with the government in failing to report on all events and turned a penguin eye to protests the media consumers were raged and declared mainstream media as unreliable. In the meantime AKP officials also declared media as unreliable, claiming the penguin documentaries shown during the hottest clashes taking place in Taksim square, to be secretly related to a deep civilian coup organization’s secret plans to instigate anger in society and thus directing them towards social media platforms where media companies secretly started an anti-AKP campaign which would be started with fights in the streets. Same theory also included another claim that the protesters were doing all kinds of violence while cameras were off and then the media would start broadcasting, they would “bow down to whisper swear words into policemen’s ears to get them infuriated” thus supplying world media with material.
Over the course of last month, when Turkish media kept its silence or simply propagated the government’s point of view, it was the international media that did not forsake the Turkish protesters. The journalists contributing to international media centers had been slightly used to receiving words of discontent from both civilians and officials for covering the events taking place in the Southeast Anatolian Kurdish cities before; now they get shunned for reporting about Gezi protests. There are several journalists that have been shown as targets by AKP officials over the course of last whole month, yet today has been witness to one that goes beyond all others so far. Metropolitan Ankara Mayor Melih Gökcek went so far as to declare Selin Girit of BBC as a spy of England, traitor and enemy of the people.
When Gökcek started a hate campaign on twitter, it received a reactionary voice unmatched before from almost all journalists online. However there has been a great many number of AKP supporters that started issuing death threats to Selin and all kinds of accusations were directed at her.
A counter campaign immediately started with the help of Gezi movement, yet this statement of truth campaign unfortunately has no real effect in discouraging thousands of people from hating Selin and believing that she is actually a traitor and spy. The method of targeting a journalist today, resembles very much the case of Hrant Dink in 2006 and his unfortunate murder in the early days of 2007. Back in 2006 when Dink was shown as a target, he was threatened many times. Although in his own words he did not really want to believe that anyone would shoot “a peace dove” he was murdered in cold blood, breaking Turkey’s own world record in highest number of murdered journalists.
There are other journalism-related records that Turkey holds at the moment. One of them is the number of imprisoned journalists. According to Committee to Protect Journalists, there were 65 journalists in prison in Turkey as of 19 June 2013. Yet the government officials accuse most of them of terrorism, although it is not absolutely certain what kind of terrorism they were doing when writing articles. Government also accused several of journalists of rape, robbery and murder; however no names or other details were given about these journalists.
There are many hate campaigns calling for assassination of journalists and media workers, and hate speech seems to have become an integral part of the statist-nationalist supporters’ rhetoric now. Although there is a special hatred against journalists who reflect onto events, there is another major campaign being promoted by several radical Islamist newspapers that are infamous for starting campaigns against arts galleries, against books, artists, exhibitions and all kinds of cultural events including the celebration of New Year’s Eve. One particular newspaper published an article in which the columnist refers to Memet Ali Alabora and his central position in the Gezi protests since the day one. The columnist suggests that when he published a piece back in 1992, he wrote about the danger that Aziz Nesin was in, and in 1993 in July a hotel was set on fire by thousands of people when police and military watched, 33 intellectuals were burned alive while several dozens barely saved their lives. The same columnists states that today a similar order was given by some dark forces for Memet Ali Alabora and that he should be careful to save his life. Two weeks ago, Alabora had already made a press conference stating that he had been receiving death threats.
One other hate campaign of the day was about the opening parade of LGBT Pride in Istanbul. Several Islamist journalists used hate speech to refer to the people that attended the pride, and continued escalating the arguments over social media platforms. While they were being as “professional” as possible in their swear words, their readers however went beyond their limits in their definitions, insults, threats. While these kind of “freedoms” are acceptable forms of freedom by the government, people’s calling for end to violence or simply criticizing the government is not among them.
When people question the level of freedom and the restrictions in front of liberties, the answer usually comes univocally from the AKP officials that no one can enjoy limitless freedom and if anyone feels that they can, the government is much freer than the individuals. For the people who have been victims of government’s oppressive methods of handling the protests, lately biggest freedom was in asking the question of who is responsible for all the violence they face on streets on a daily basis. Today in Erzurum, PM Erdogan answered that question: “they ask who gave the orders. I did, of course. I told the police to clean up the square and park so that my nation can use it.”
There were also other interesting remarks by Erdogan during his speech, he suggested that all of his supporters should hang Turkish flag on their balconies and windows to show their side on these events and while restricting his supporters only to hang up Turkish flags he also said “those who wish can also hang up the triple crescent flag of the Ottoman Empire” although the triple crescent flag is currently also being used by the extreme nationalist MHP, and nationalist leader defies Erdogan’s attempts to lure his supporters into AKP.
Finally the closing words of Erdogan from Erzurum: “One Nation, One State, One Flag, One Language, One Fatherland: Turkey”