Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat down with the largest media owners of the country in October 2011. At the time, major Kurdish conflict was taking place to the east of the country with their neighboring people, and Erdogan deemed it necessary to sit with the various journalists and explain exactly how they should approach reporting on these events.
Two months later, Turkish fighter jets killed 34 Kurdish people in Uludere. There was no material reported on the event.
That was almost two years ago. Today, the same deal is still going down. The recent unrest that has taken place in Turkey sparked after Prime Minister Erdogan (no relation) released plans to destroy Gezi Park, the last green park in the city, to build a shopping mall and condominiums. As Erdogan's rising authoritarian power was tested by protestors and demonstrators, the media failed to report on the subject and avoided it all together.
Haberturk TV, a popular news source located only 200 feet from Gezi Park, aired a discussion between doctors on the subject of schizophrenia. CNN Turkey had their viewers watching a documentary about penguins, while on the other side of the world, CNN in the U.S. had tons of coverage of the unrest.
Instead of having coverage of protestors, feedback from government officials, or even just acknowledging how citizens were on their feet about the future of their country, Turkish media had penguins on during prime time.
How gullible are we in terms of the media? As exemplified by the aforementioned situation, it's clear that Turkish citizens had been lied to and deceived by television stations and newspapers that were supposedly reporting the most important information that citizens should be informed about. Instead of reading about the current state of government and the protests that occurred and peaked around the end of May and early June, citizens in Istanbul were viewing movies about Penguins.
When outside their windows, protesters and demonstrators were being violently suppressed by Police with tear gas.
This problem arises from the government's all-powerful control over the media. When media CEOs and editors make close ties with large, successful companies directly related to the government, business deals become suspicious.
Turkey's economy has not always been as thriving as it is now, which could only provide for more of those under-the-table business deals between business corporations, media conglomerates and government representatives.
Turkey is not the only country guilty of feeding their citizens with content that has no relation to current events due to major control by the ruling government. Eitrea, a small country on the east coast of Africa, restricts journalists of any editorial independence, and gives them instructions on how to write articles and are locked up if suspected of sending information out of the country. China, a country known for their censorship, also has intense laws against propaganda in public media and intimidates journalists who threaten to report on something extra controversial with the loss of their job and/or imprisonment. Other countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Belarus have similar anti-press regulations.
The saying "don't believe everything you read on the internet" shouldn't just be applied to the interwebs. It's quite simple to turn on the television or switch on the radio and listen to the news without a second thought. Although, it is important to remember that the media does not always have your best interest at heart, and neither does the government.
This media epidemic is not nearly as serious in the US as it is in Turkey and those other countries, but never should citizens take the media for granted. Between the government and the citizens is the media, and it's very easy for the former side to manipulate and take control of the media, so they can remain in control of the latter as well.
Melodi Erdogan is a rising junior in journalism and electronic media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.