Abortive coup – Turkish journalists on the brink of the abyss

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns the attacks against media outlets and journalists that took place during last night’s attempted military coup in Turkey.

Soldiers stormed public broadcaster TRT’s studios in Istanbul and Ankara at around midnight, forcing presenter Tijen Karaş to read their communiqué and then interrupting programmes.

Another group of soldiers subsequently stormed the Istanbul headquarters of Doğan, a Kemalist media group that includes such leading outlets as the daily Hürriyet and the TV channels CNN Türk and Kanal D. After heated arguments, journalists were force to evacuate the premises at gunpoint and broadcasting was interrupted.

There was a similar sequence of events at the headquarters of digital and cable TV provider Digiturk. The police later recovered control of all these buildings, arrested the soldiers occupying them, and allowed employees to go back to work.

Yeni Şafak photoreporter Mustafa Cambaz was gunned down by soldiers after appealing on social networks for protests against the coup attempt.

While covering events, Selçuk Şamiloğlu, Hürriyet’s Istanbul correspondent, and Kenan Şener, a CNN Türk reporter in Ankara, were both physically attacked by government supporters suspicious of Kemalist media outlets. After being hospitalized, Şamiloglu told RSF he came close to being thrown from a bridge.

This morning, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım apologized to the media for incidents of this kind which, he said, were the “result of the stress and emotion” of the demonstrators.

Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were all extremely slow during part of the night, which may have been due to a traffic surge. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his supporters, who are usually very critical of social networks, made much use of them to call for resistance to the coup and to recover control of the situation.

“Like the rest of Turkish society, the leading news media demonstrated their commitment to democratic principles during the past night,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It is time for the authorities to take note and to stop treating critical journalists as traitors and terrorists. Reinforcing national cohesion requires respect for basic freedoms including media freedom.”

The official provisional toll from the abortive coup is at least 265 dead and 1,440 wounded. Turkey is ranked 151st out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Published on
Updated on 16.07.2016