Media is not ‘the oxygen of terrorism’: Censorship suffocates society

Media is not ‘the oxygen of terrorism’: Censorship suffocates society

Former prime minister of the United Kingdom Margaret Thatcher is recorded in the history of censorship for saying, “Media is the oxygen of terrorism.”

Our politicians have recently been recycling this idea in the form “propaganda is the oxygen of terrorism.” The government, with this stance, is trying to shut down the eyes, ears and mouths of the media, without decreasing the social support behind terrorism. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan does not want news stories about terrorism to be seen, but this is in vain. Prime Minister Erdoğan has called on the editors-in-chief of the media before, warning them about their coverage of terrorism stories, but he has realized that this is no remedy.

Violence should not be fueled
Erdoğan has now openly expressed a directive that news of the deaths of soldiers involved in fighting terrorism should not be delivered through television screens by TV channels. The entire accumulation of the experiences in the world has demonstrated that if there is a very ineffective way to prevent terrorism, then that is exactly when the media hides the truth. If we were to discuss the principles of the matter, then this is the duty of the media, not the government.

Stories of terrorism and violence stories should of course not be published or broadcast in a form that will instigate fear and anxiety in the public. They should also not be delivered so that they pump up hostility between segments of society, playing on Turkish-Kurdish tensions. But no one, including governments, should expect the media to hide the truth.

The truth cannot be hidden
Ragıp Duran, the Turkey correspondent at the French daily Libération, and a lecturer on media in the communications department at Galatasaray University, reminds us of the universal principle at work here: “Stories dealing with violence and terror should be presented in a manner that does not restrict the [public’s] right to be informed, but [which also] does not transform [the stories] into propaganda.”
The vice president of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), Professor Doğan Tılıç, also reiterates that the Thatcher mentality does not work and that truth will triumph over censorship.
I asked the Istanbul bureau of the New York Times what the situation is in the United States, a country that continues to experience casualties in Afghanistan as it did in Iraq, and received this answer: “There could not be such a directive in the U.S. Even if there were, it would be disclosed immediately. The New York Times covers [stories about the deaths of soldiers] and it also covers stories about their families. It uses images from homes of [dead soldiers], even from their rooms. It avoids using graphic images [of the dead or wounded], but it does not hide the truth.”

Thatcher, with her place in the history of censorship, lost her war against the media, in any event. She is no longer on the world stage, but the media and its struggle for freedom are still around.

Nedim Şener is a columnist for daily Posta, in which this piece was published on Sept. 5. It was translated into English by the Daily News staff.