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Satire, news embargo and social media ban in Turkey

2. April 2016

Today, it was april 1st, that day when everybody tries to fool everybody else. I had a lot of different versions of expressing this in the German version of this blog post, but my English is not good enough, so basically, you are pretty lucky that this introduction ends here.

In addition, we already laughed a lot these days. For example about some persiflage of German TV show extra3 regarding Turkish president Erdoğan, shortly after that about Erdoğans thin-skinned reaction to it and in the end again about the TV shows’s reaction on it.

All this made me think of some discussions I had back this february when I was in Izmir. Together with a friend of mine, I visited Bornova, one of Izmir’s districts. As this part of the city also hosts the famous Ege University, there are many, many students living in Bornova.

While walking around in the district I realized that the newspaper kiosks sell a lot of satire magazines than I. Actually, more than kiosks that I know from Germany or Switzerland.

One of those newspaper kiosks. Naber (meaning “N’aber” = What’s up”), Uykusuz (“sleepless”) and Penguen (the penguin is a symbol of Turkish protest, for some reasons) are examples for satirical magazines.

So I asked my friend: Why is it that everytime there is a bomb attack in Turkey the government bans Facebook, Twitter and Youtube for some time, but on the other hand I can buy magazines that show president Erdoğan in a not very flattering cartoon?

Turkey’s official motto Yurtta sulh, Cihanda Sulh which means “Peace at Home, Peace in the World”, is in this picture caricatured to “Shut up at home! Shut up in the whole world!!”

Her answer was surprising. My friend told me that Turkish government was aware of the fact that thegeneral public either loved or hated them. Erdoğan would not really care about covering scandals up. It is a fact that he is the president and that he will stay that at least for a while. This is why he accepts those – in his eyes maybe ridiculous – criticising magazines.

More important to him seems his image in other countries. This is why he does want any uncontrolled information to get out of Turkey.

A few weeks later, a new bomb attack had happened in Istanbul, I received one more answer to the question why there is a ban on social media channels in Turkey after every assassination. I got it from an employee of the Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu Ajansı (aa.com.tr) which maybe a more Erdoğan friendly medium. This is why the first answer was: “Türkish government does not block social media channels.”

So I presented her a press report by Reuters which said that a court in Ankara had ordered a ban on Facebook und Twitter. That is when I received a second, revised answer: Turkish media would be shameless and would show all kinds of crude pictures from the crime scenes containing e.g. blood and cut off body parts. Also, Turkish citizens would act the same and spread disgusting pictures using Twitter and Facebook. Turkish government only wanted to prevent this. (Her agency, Anadoly Ajansı, would of course act totally different and show only respectable material. Besides that, they’d be ads-free.)

But let me again discuss the very answer I had received by my friend I mentioned first who said that Erdoğan was especially focussed controlling every information that would leave the country. I guess at that point you were asking: But what about all the tourists? They see everything and can report it in their home countries.

I am not sure about that. Turkey is huge country. Tourists normally visit the nice places (except me). But there are also regions, especially in the country’s East, that are not that known and the situation there isn’t well reported either. For example, would you believe the following film was recorded in Turkey just three weeks earlier:

“Biz yine güzeliz, hep de güzel kalacağız!” | Cizre / Bölüm 1 | Mart 2016 from KAZIM KIZIL on Vimeo.

Looks like Beirut in the 80s, but it shows the city of Cizre in the Southeast of Turkey. This is a place where the Turkish army shoots at Kurdish citizens on a regular base. That Cizre is also close to Iraq and Syria is another reason why you should not go there if you want to have a relaxing time.

tl;dr
Googling for pictures from Cizre tells you something about the situation over there, too.

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