By Mustafa Özdemir, Turkish journalist
Last weekend as Turkish demonstrators took to the streets chanting in protest, others stayed inside watching a documentary about penguins broadcasted on CNN Turk. Another large news channel, NTV, aired a documentary on Adolf Hitler--all while protesters walked the streets demanding more freedom! They were in solidarity, like the penguins on TV...
TV channels, newspapers, and news websites hardly broadcasted anything on the real situation. There were only a few small articles in the newspapers and some short videos on TV, but these news snippets did not even explain what protesters wanted and why they were on streets! In contrast, every major news source broadcasted all of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s speeches. Why? There is widespread belief that leading media companies' patrons are afraid of Erdogan. Their relationships are built on money and tender bids, not on the citizens’ freedom of information. While the media was quiet, the employees that make up the companies were not; many were out on streets as well supporting the freedom movement.
In my case, only after watching live internet broadcasts from CNN International, Al Jazeera, and a Norwegian TV channel did I learn what was happening in my own city! Can you believe it?
As for social media, there are no words. Take a look at the photo for how it happened.
The streets were full of journalists because everybody was a social media journalist! Through the various social media platforms, they informed others in real time about where the police were, how many people were injured, or called for help. There were dialogues such as, "Hey! Is that street safe?” / “No, there are police!" On a normal day, this dialogue would have been the complete opposite, right? People were tweeting, "Hey! Don't sit in front of your computer, come to streets!", calling their friends to join.
The main hashtags used were #occupygezi and #direngeziparki. Gezi Parkı is the original park that sparked the protest, and “diren” means to resist.
On Monday, Erdogan left for the North African countries on a political trip. The censorship left with him. On the same day, the media began to cover the freedom movement, I believe as a matter of consciousness. The same Monday, a large protest took place in front the NTV center -- which was broadcasted live by NTV at the same time, reporting that the protest was happening just 50 meters away from their building entrance. "People are protesting the media!" said one reporter. How ironic! NTV's General Manager then set up a meeting with all of channel employees and said, "We did wrong, now we have to work a lot to gain trust of people again." I guess the media has changed its way of thinking...
Since Monday, the media has begun covering everything. Politicians, journalists, and reporters are on TV, telling the whole story. People are responding, "We already know the whole story; tell us for why you didn't do this before!"
There were also some humorous programs. I think you’re familiar with the word guessing game, "word game". On Bloomberg Haberturk, a pro government channel, the word game show host, Ihsan Varol, ran a legendary episode. We will never forget i; all of the words asked on the show were about the freedom movement and criticised the government, police, and media's attitude in the past few days.
In another instance, Turkish actor Sermiyan Midyat was invited as a guest on CNN Turk on Tuesday evening. Both he and the CNN Turk show host were supporters of the movement and they talked openly about it and media censorship. At one point, Sermiyan Midyat took off his shirt and underneath it, he wore a penguin shirt! The t-shirt had penguins, the live broadcast logo, and the CNN Turk logo. He said, "I know that you are a democratic channel, so I wore this special t-shirt for you! Thank you for refreshing us on those hot days with penguins". Funny moments!
I noticed a small detail while watching NTV, Haberturk, or CNN Turk nowadays. While reporting from the streets, reporters don't use microphones with the channel logo. There isn't any sign of affiliation with the channel on the reporters' outfit or equipment. Think about it... Why? They are afraid of the reactions from protesters; people will never forget the censorship. While the reporters are just trying to do their job, people are still angry at media patrons.
As result, Turkey woke up! Now people understand the impact they can have if they stick together. They recognize their power.
And for a while, all the media did was watch on...
(Photos by Mustafa Özdemir, Turkish journalist)
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Twittare: un reato? by Isadora Bilancino