While opposing coups
Fortunately, the Turkish media has abandoned its love for militarism. The active stance adopted since the July 15 failed coup attempt is proof of this. The media did not hesitate for a moment to take the side of the elected civilian administration.
However, after the thrill of the first days, now the dust has settled a bit and we are able to take a calmer look at the journalism done in those days, as well as make some reminders about the universal principles of journalism.
The stance of the media has been applaudable but not enough. It is a must that democracy should be defended with all its institutions. Defending basic concepts such as rule of law, human rights and freedoms is necessary, as is opposing all kinds of violence.
The practical meaning of this in journalism is as follows: A state of emergency has been declared in Turkey and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) has been suspended. We, journalists, will not support the suspension of freedoms and human rights; we will continue to monitor the practices in this field.
We will not give up practicing universal principles of journalism even if our interlocutors are coup plotters. We respect their fair trial, not being declared guilty in advance and right to defense. We will not adopt the style of their accusing authorities; we will never tolerate torture.
In that sense, it was a correct publishing point that daily Hürriyet and hurriyet.com.tr not only reported the atrocities and merciless murders of the coup plotters but also reported the violence exerted on the privates.
Stories of privates being beaten were published on July 17 with objective language. The stories and photos showing that former Air Force commander and member of the Supreme Military Council Gen. Akın Öztürk had been maltreated while detained were the documentation of the time. The drawing of attention to the signs of battering on Öztürk’s body in our story titled “Suspected commander caught” on July 18, and demonstrating with two photos the bruises on Öztürk’s face, will be remembered as journalism opposing torture and maltreatment.
Also, even though it was claimed that he would have been made the chief of general staff after the coup, both these claims and his defense were printed. Both his statement he sent through his family and his statement to the police were conveyed to the readers since day one.
When question marks increased, the office of the chief of staff issued a statement verifying Öztürk’s defense of “I went to the base upon the instructions of the Air Force commander to persuade the coup stagers.” This protective statement came after five full days. However, Deputy Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Güler, in his statement to the prosecutor, said, “Öztürk was acting in full freedom at the Akıncı Base. He untied my wrists and he was giving instructions to the coup soldiers,” which further confused minds.
Dozens of more questions arose. There have been quite a lot of questions from the beginning anyway. The more answers we find to these questions, the more dark spots of the coup attempt will be enlightened. We have to ask new questions and follow up on answers to find the truth. Asking questions fearlessly, finding answers and printing them freely are only possible under full-functioning freedom of press and freedom of expression conditions. This is the reason I am emphasizing that while opposing the coup one needs to defend democracy with all of its institutions. When there is no freedom, the media cannot do its work; thus, the public cannot enjoy its right to information.