[You will be hardpressed to find any Turkey-based media that focuses upon this national news explosion, or gives the protests more than a passing nod. The Turkish Spring is NOT about some park becoming a mall, but IS about the Islamist dictatorship of Mr. Erdogan.]
Turkish media has undercover for 18 days the anti-government protests followed all the broadcasts pro-government without the BBC and CNN would not see the world the brutality of the police in Turkey.
Activists with the Turkish journalists’ union demonstrated in front of the palace of justice in Istanbul in early May, on World Press Freedom Day. They flew 62 kites, as a sign of protest against the imprisonment of 62 journalists. Before the event, the union had complained about the “massive pressure and threats” emanating from representatives of the government.
Prime Minister Erdogan ordinarily perceives criticism of his administration’s policies as a personal attack, and yet he isn’t above publicly attacking individual journalists. He has reportedly called upon publishers — repeatedly and successfully — to dismiss insubordinate editors.
In response to the liberal daily Milliyet‘s publication of a secret document, he raved: “If this is journalism, then down with your journalism.” The premier, in office for the last 10 years, also likes to use laws governing the press to take action against journalists. He has ordered three new lawsuits to be filed this year.
“The Islamists don’t want diversity of the press,” says noted investigative journalist Ahmet Sik, 43. The leftist author spent more than a year in prison because of the absurd charge that he was part of a right-wing military conspiracy. He and two fellow authors were kept in complete isolation in a high-security wing of the prison in Silivri.
When he was released on bail in March 2012, he said angrily: “If the police officers, public prosecutors and judges who forged this plot are imprisoned here one day, justice will have been served.” Sik has now been charged with threatening and defaming civil servants, offences for which he could face up to seven years in prison.
When Gezi Park at Taksim Square was being cleared, the police shot a tear gas cartridge at his head at close range. Sik collapsed, covered in blood. According to Reporters Without Borders, at least 14 journalists have already been injured, some severely, during reporting on the protests against the Erdogan government. “All journalists in Turkey are afraid,” says Sik, “afraid of being fired and afraid of being arrested.” The government, he adds, is trying to intimidate and silence all critics, which leads to self-censorship.
Erdogan flatly contradicted the chancellor at the joint press conference. “No more than a handful” of journalists had been arrested in Turkey, he said, and “not because of their articles, but because they are putschists, arms smugglers and terrorists.”
If Turkish prosecutors are to be believed, investigative journalist Sik is also a dangerous putschist. He expects that he will be sentenced toward the end of the year, and he could very well be sent to prison again. His 12-year-old daughter has urged him to turn to writing cookbooks.
But that isn’t a future Sik wants for himself. Instead, he is currently working on a book about the Turkish judiciary.
t was mostly angry office workers from Istanbul’s Maslak banking district who appeared on Monday, June 3, during their lunch break at the editorial offices of the NTV news channel. “Stop acting as if nothing were happening,” they chanted, as they railed against what they called the “bought media.” “We can pay you, too,” the roughly 3,000 demonstrators shouted, mocking the NTV employees who had managed to completely ignore the anti-government protests that had already been going on for three days. The protestors had glued Turkish lira bank notes to their banners.
The editors at CNN Türk also fell short of expectations. While CNN International showed live images of the dramatic clashes between police and protesters, the Turkish channel aired a documentary about penguins. Many newspapers complied with the de facto news blackout. Whether the journalists were following government instructions or simply suppressing the news in an act of preemptive obedience is still unclear.
The group Reporters Without Borders was able to verify that 36 journalists are currently behind bars in Turkey. The country’s journalists’ union puts the number of media representatives in prison at 62, while the European Federation of Journalists says that there are 66.
Still, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) deny that journalists are persecuted in Turkey. “Some of these negative reports are written on commission,” Erdogan stated on television. “Their sources are wrong.”
Turkey Unrest:Turkish TV watchdog, calling the operation
As the unrest unfolded almost two weeks ago, mainstream Turkish media did not cover the violent police clashes, but instead broadcast nature and history documentaries, and cooking shows.
Many of the other local networks briefly mentioned the protests, but failed to cover the violent clashes in which scores were injured.
Angered protesters had to turn to the internet, especially Twitter, to get the information out.
In response, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan condemned social media’s role in the riots, singling out what he called the “scourge” of Twitter.
“There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” Erdogan said in the beginning of June.
Most recently two Canadian journalists were arrested by police on Wednesday while covering the ongoing protests in Istanbul’s Taksim Square. The two had been held all day and later released.
Turkish protesters continue to mass while riot police use tear gas and water cannons to break up gatherings.
On Thursday Erdogan issued a final warning to protesters occupying Gezi Park.
“Our patience is at an end,” Erdogan said in a speech. “I am making my warning for the last time.”
Protesters are demanding the government cancel plans to destroy Gezi Park, just meters away from the city’s iconic Taksim Square; for police chiefs in cities with a particularly high rate of violence against protesters to be sacked; and for the release of those that have been detained during the protests.
In the 13 days of anti-government anger, four protesters and one policeman have lost their lives and the number of injured stands above 5,000, prompting Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation to open an investigation into excessive use of force by police.