Reporters Without Borders

Journalists scapegoated in “Occupy Gezi” crisis

Journalists scapegoated in “Occupy Gezi” crisis

Published on Wednesday 12 June 2013. Updated on Thursday 13 June 2013.
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At least three journalists were injured during the clashes that occurred yesterday when the police used force to clear Istanbul’s Taksim Square of protesters.

“We are becoming increasingly concerned about the dangerous climate for journalists covering Turkey’s protest movement,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Two weeks after the start of the anti-government protests, journalists are the targets of police violence, threats from government officials, and protester suspicion. We urge all parties to respect journalists and refrain from attacking them.”

New round of violence

A tear-gas canister fired by police hit Osman Terkan, a reporter for the Islamist daily Star, in the hand, breaking one of his fingers. Jivan Güner, a trainee reporter with the EPA news agency and a student at Istanbul’s Marmara University, was hit on the head by a projectile of unknown origin. She was given a head X-ray and stitches to her injury at Taksim Hospital and then discharged.

Mathias Depardon, a French photographer who strings for Le Monde and The Wall Street Journal, was hit by a projectile fired by the police. The projectile – he did not know if it was a tear-gas canister or rubber bullet – struck the mask he was wearing and his shoulder, causing a minor injury to the shoulder.

Well-known freelance journalist Ahmet Sik, who had already been injured on 31 May, has hit on the head by a tear-gas canister again yesterday but was not hurt because he was wearing a helmet.

“I have worked in war zones but Taksim was terrible,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “The security forces were hunting people down. Media personnel are targeted twice over. By demonstrators who think they are siding with the government and not covering events properly. And by the security forces, who deliberately fire at us.”

Reporters Without Borders has meanwhile learned that Lorraine Klein, a French journalism student who was violently arrested on 4 June and was threatened with deportation, was finally released on 8 June.

Censorship and threats

Four TV stations that have been giving the “Occupy Gezi” movement particularly close coverage – Halk TV (which supports the opposition CHP party), Ulusal Kanal (a nationalist station), Cem TV (an Alevi station) and EM TV – have received stiff fines from the Radio and TV High Council (RTÜK), Turkey’s broadcast media regulator.

RTÜK accused them of “harming the physical, moral and mental development of children and youths” by broadcasting footage of the clashes. These stations have boosted their popularity in recent weeks by their detailed coverage of the protests, in contrast to other stations that ignored them for several days.

Halk TV managing editor Hakan Aygün told Reporters Without Borders that the fine was designed to intimidate the station’s journalists and impose the government view of the protest movement. RTÜK’s members are named by Turkey’s political parties, in which the ruling party has the majority, he explained.

“We were fined by the six elected members chosen by the ruling AKP party,” he said. “The other three members objected, but they were unable to prevent the fine.” Aygün added that Halk TV would take the case to the European Court of Human rights if RTÜK’s decision was not overturned on appeal. This would be a first for Turkey’s privately-owned national TV stations.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is continuing to verbally attack the media, accusing them of sensationalizing the protests for the benefit of certain interest groups. Last week, he said Twitter was a “problem,” while Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arinç accused the international media of working with “external forces” in an attempt to destabilize Turkey.

Freedom for Journalists (GÖP), a coalition of Turkey’s main journalists’ associations, condemned the police violence in a press release yesterday.

Several hundred journalists demonstrated in support of the “Occupy Gezi” movement six days ago in response to a call from the Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS). They also urged their colleagues to respect journalistic ethics and provide the protests with balanced coverage.

Photo by: Angelos Tzortzinis / AFP

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