Turkish media criticized for ignoring protests and police brutality

Published time: June 05, 2013 08:52

Protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen on the way to Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 5, 2013. (AFP Photo / Bulent Kilic)

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Turkish media outlets have been slammed for their coverage of the ongoing protests in the country. As water cannons and tear gas were unleashed on thousands of protesters, injuring scores, local media chose to air a documentary on penguins.

As the unrest unfolded on Friday and Saturday, Turkish media did
not cover the violent police clashes, instead broadcasting nature
and history documentaries, and cooking shows.

“We are watching the news from CNN International: Protesters,
tear gas, and police hitting people. Then we checked CNN Turkey
and there was a penguin documentary. So, I can’t comment!”
talk show host and producer Ozgur Cakit told RT.

Other networks briefly mentioned the protests, but failed to
cover the violent clashes in which scores were injured.

Angered and outraged locals turned to the Internet to share
information and vent frustration — Twitter and Facebook were one
of the few ways to read news on the latest developments. 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 on Sunday, dismissing the protests as organized by extreme
elements. “The best examples of lies can be found there. To
me, social media is the worst menace to society.”

It was through Twitter that activists spread the word to gather
in support of the demonstrations, until the issue could no longer
be ignored. Local channels then had to play catch-up, trying to
make up for lost airtime.

The media’s initial inaction has angered many in Turkey, RT’s
Irina Galushko reported from Istanbul. Demonstrators lashed out
against local media, gathering outside the offices of private TV
stations NTV and HaberTurk on Sunday and Monday. In Istanbul’s
Taksim district, protesters smashed an NTV satellite van,
destroyed its equipment and covered it with graffiti.

A protestor takes a photo of a burnt Turkish TV vehicle in Taksim square on June 2, 2013, after the clashes. (AFP Photo / Ozan Kose)

Many in Turkey believe strongly that there is a responsibility
that comes with being a news provider, and that Turkish media
have failed in that responsibility.

“We only have one channel that shows everything in this
country, it’s really sad, that we cannot see anything. For
example, my mother — she lives in the village — if I don’t call
her, she won’t know anything,”
fashion student Ata told RT.

Others said that local media likely shied away from coverage that
would have angered Erdogan’s government. “[Media] does not
broadcast because of the pressure of the prime minister. It’s
unfair that we have to find out about it [protests] from the
international TV channels,”
sociology student Alev shared
with RT.

On Tuesday, Turkey arrested and charged 24 bloggers for using
social media to “instigate public hatred and animosity,”
and issued 14 other warrants, Turkish media reported.

Turkish business conglomerate Dogus — which owns NTV, as well as
other interests such as finance —apologized for its failure to
cover the beginning of the protests: “Our audience feels like
they were betrayed,”
NTV quoted Dogus CEO Cem Aydin as saying
on Tuesday.

Aydin added that the public criticism of the station was “fair
to a large extent… Our professional responsibility is to report
everything as in the way it happens. The pursuit of balance
within the imbalanced environment affected us as it did the other
media outlets.”

Customers of the conglomerate lashed out by targeting Dogus-owned
banks, closing around 1,500 debit and credit card accounts in

This article originally appeared on: RT