The journalism of Turkey’s July 15 coup attempt

The journalism of Turkey’s July 15 coup attempt

Faruk Bildirici

Perhaps I should have written this article on the first anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. But at that time so many emotional speeches were being delivered and so many sentimental articles were being written that it was difficult to make a cool-headed contribution. But now that the celebrations and memorials are behind us, we can start to talk about the journalism of July 15.

It is possible to analyze the issue of journalism in Turkey since the coup attempt in two main categories:
 The first is journalism about the coup attempt; the second is the effects of the coup attempt on journalism.

In an environment when the state’s rulers were not making satisfactory statements, the most important task of shedding light to the coup attempt fell to the shoulders of the media. Yet media outlets and journalists close to political power did not focus on the key questions about that day. Only a handful of journalists from more independent media institutions have tried to peer behind the curtain of secrecy.

 Through this effort, they have been able to shed light on some crucial information and contradictions in statements about that day.

The indictments and testimonies in the ongoing coup attempt trials provide some important clues about the network behind the coup. Daily Hürriyet’s Sedat Ergin has been meticulously examining the indictments and developments in the trials, but even a year after the coup attempt questions linger about many aspects of the coup attempt. 

Effects of the coup on journalism

What about the effects of the coup attempt on journalism? It is fair to say that the well-known problems of the media in Turkey only increased in the aftermath of July 15, 2016. This is in line with the broader intensification of problems in freedoms and democracy we have experienced in the country. Several independent and alternative media outlets have been closed with state of emergency decrees without any justification being given. Journalists have been visiting security departments and courthouses as subjects in cases even more frequently than before.

Tracking the number of journalists detained or arrested has become a major mission of many NGOs. The Contemporary Journalists Association recently compiled the numbers for the year from July 15, 2016 to July 15, 2017. 

“Some 318 media members have been detained and 103 have been arrested. Some 18 journalists have been identified as targets or assaulted. One journalist has been killed,” states the association.

“Some 147 media institutions have been closed. Access to 25 news websites has been denied. Two news websites have been shut down. Some 1,404 media members have lost their jobs, 624 press cards have been canceled and 32 cards allowing journalists to enter parliament were cancelled. Four foreign media members have been deported,” it adds.

With a recent decree, the Kurdish issue-focused Dihaber news agency and the newspapers Şujin and Rojeva Medya joined the ranks of shuttered media outlets. The number of journalists behind bars has steadily increased, rising above 160. 

Unfortunately, one of the responsible parties for this harsh picture is some pro-government media outlets, which target some journalists and critical media. These outlets contribute to the rise in pressure on the media and obstruct pluralism.

In sum, the current picture shows that it is not enough to stand against the coup. Journalists have to unequivocally endorse democracy and freedoms. Press freedom and defending the people’s right to access news should be the common denominator of the media. That is the only way out from the point to which the coup attempt disaster and its aftermath have brought the media.