Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Turkish media practice war journalism

 Peace journalism was originally conceived as a response to war journalism, which was defined as reporting that romanticizes and sanitizes war and violence, stoking “us vs. them” hatreds, while presenting violence (war) as the only or best option.

Such war reporting can be seen in the Turkish media the day after a Turkish jet downed a Russian war plane.

One newspaper, Yeni Safak, has a large flaming picture of the Russian jet with the headline, “We warn, we shoot.”  In Milliyet newspaper, the same flaming plane framed a map and included a large headline (as best as I can figure using a clunky translation program) indicating a punch or bruise inflicted after a warning (uradri, in Turkish).  Other papers, according to the Turkish Press Review ( also emphasized the warning given the Russian pilot. Vatan newspaper’s headline said, “We made 10 warnings.” Similar headlines stated that "Russia has crossed the line" (Star newspaper)  and that Turkey had reached its "Limit of patience" (Haber Turk newspaper). 

The heavy emphasis on the warnings, and the limits of patience, echo the official line coming from Turkish President Erdogan’s office. Indeed, this framing sounds almost defensive—we didn’t want to do this, but were left with no choice. 

As for the photos of the flaming Russian plane, this also seems to be a picture that official Turkey would want published and re-published: an image depicting the might of Turkish armed forces and the consequences of violating Turkish air space.

My colleague Dr. Metin Ersoy, a communications professor from Eastern Mediterranean University in Turkish North Cyprus, is also studying news coverage of the incident. He writes, “Actually I am collecting the front pages of Turkish newspapers. It seems that majority of news coverage is supporting Turkish government side and just war oriented frames have been used. (Only a) minority of them just criticized the government… They have used conflict frames in order to legitimize and show violence as a best option of this problem.”

A peace journalist would indeed publish the official line, understanding that it is propaganda. However, she would take a further step, and offer a critique of these military actions, give a voice to those who oppose or criticize it, and provide context and analysis. (The best analysis I’ve seen thus far includes the role that Russian bombing of Turkmen in northern Syria may have had on the decision to shoot at the Russians.) Finally, the peace journalism approach would reject the saber-rattling war frames that present violence (military confrontation) as the only, best response in this situation. Better journalism wouldn’t ignore the violent option, but would balance it with voices from those who advocate non-violent solutions.

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