We can’t excuse violence
Regardless of the reason, it does not matter, a journalist cannot be exposed to violence because of the graphic cartoon or photograph he draws about a development or because of what he writes, talks about or comments on. Disliking the story or the statements he uses, or what is displayed in the drawing, or finding it disgusting cannot, in any way, justify the journalist being pushed around, stabbed, injured or condemned to an even more dire situation.
A journalist needs to know the difference between an informant and a reporter though they may sound alike in Turkish. Unfortunately, there are both whistleblowers, spies and reporters in journalism at the same time. As editor at one time, I found it more appropriate not to allow such a situation but when failed to overcome the problem, I “preferred” unemployment for a while. I’m not questioning whether it’s normal or abnormal, but I’m now in a position to realize that sometimes, intentionally or unknowingly, such situations occur as a consequence of a natural process.
“Are we journalists or patriots first?” or such a question should be asked at all times, especially by journalists working in the field. The answer is a very complicated one. For example, how will a journalist approach the question of “Who is a terrorist?” if particularly in any academic research on the issue it might be seen that there are more than 90 definitions? If one is a terrorist for one state and a freedom fighter for another state, what definition will the journalist use? Or if the word “guerrilla” connotates “legitimization,” will it be “objective” or “impartial” journalism to use the word “guerrilla” and give legitimacy just because the question of who is a terrorist cannot be answered so clearly?
Those were tough questions. Of course, a journalist should also try to be an intellectual in his community. How many of us can do that, that’s another matter. However, a journalist must be patriotic, in favor of peace, justice, i.e. must defend rights and the supremacy of law.
Of course, when I say patriotic, I definitely would not try to ask anyone to be ethnically obsessive as was lived during the Balkan tragedy, when outrageous journalist (and editor who run such a story) wrote, “I killed a Serb.” A journalist should not be, of course, the subject of a news story himself. Why did I make all this gibble-gabble?
Regardless of his ideology, political opinion, whichever media institution he or she works for, a journalist cannot defend illegality, try to make outlawed people look cute, praise terrorism or violence and take attitudes in a way that gives legitimacy to claims by a gang leader.
I don’t need to give you his name. A left-leaning newspaper’s sleazy reporter posted messages delivered to him by an outlawed gang chief abetted by a not so friendly Arab country, saying they were the words of that gang leader, and allegedly did so to help “disseminate truth and help to fulfill the Turkish people’s right to information.”
“There is no such thing as objective journalism,” said one senior journalist. “This job itself is subjective. Every journalist decides how to allow himself be manipulated,” he commented in a conversation. He probably was trying to tease me, yet I can’t rule out comfortably that no such perception really doesn’t exist.
The fact that a journalist should be “objective” is also a controversial issue. What, who and how will the journalist be objective? Objectivity is not about the source of the news, or the subject of the story, but rather how it is investigated, written and even presented. Therefore, that’s why objectivity is one of the basic elements of journalism. Pledging allegiance to a gang leader, or disseminating his message, is of course not journalism, but an act of service to an unlawful personality. This behavior can never be seen as compatible with the notion of helping to conform with “the right of the public to know the truth.”
When gang chiefs pledge allegiance and a journalist becomes something like a servant to that gang leader, can he still be considered a journalist simply because he works for a newspaper? Whatever the answer, is the violence against that person an inter-gang showdown or an attack on a journalist? That’s important, too. However, violence should be condemned and abhorred, no matter who it is directed at.