Considering how Turkey has been fighting terrorism – or more specifically, the PKK – since the early 1980s, one would expect Turkish media outlets to be experts at covering terrorism, its attacks and its aftermaths. Alas, this could not be more far from the truth.
This week, during a bombing attack in the southeastern Hakkari province, police officer Mehmet Tuhal was killed. After his body was identified, a group of officials went to Tuhal's parents' home in Hatay, a province in southern Turkey, to give them the saddest news a mother and father can ever be given. The story is full of grief, but unfortunately nothing new in Turkey, especially in the recent months. The absurdity that I referred to was filling the home of the Tuhal's parents with cameramen and photographers while an official shared the news. Full coverage of the enormous grief the parents suffered, too stunned to even complain, may be considered good television or journalism to some, but it is highly unethical.
All three major news agencies supplied visuals to their audiences, and the district governorship also featured them on their website like it was a photo-op at an opening. Of course, huge controversy broke out shortly after news websites broke the story, and both comment sections and social media were furious at the obvious misconduct. We can go on and on about how sad news of this magnitude should always be given by professionals in a private environment, but let us focus on the media's conduct here.
First of all, we have the agencies here as enablers, for the lack of a better term. They were the first link of the news cycle, and probably have only been thinking about how to "get the news" while ignoring the potential consequences. After they gathered the initial material, then comes the second link of the news cycle: News websites. Here, I would like to separate them into two categories, one consisting of websites operating only on the Internet while the others being the web version of a printed newspaper. Many in the first category were quick to break the news and only considered the amount of hits they were going to get. I am quite sure that this story alone brought them quite a bit traffic. Can we say mission accomplished?
As the first category was quick to jump the gun, they also triggered the reaction on social media. Some tried to change their wording, and we saw some use absurd terms such as "grief of the family reflected on camera." I can't help but wonder based on that title, were the cameras just coincidently passing by and happened to capture the visuals?
The second category of the websites were either lucky or experienced enough to wait for the public's reaction and tailored their content accordingly. They featured the condemning tones of the misconduct that took place, and how the cameras should not have been there to capture the most private moments of the family, all while publishing photos of the event.
All I can hope is the general backlash of the matter would stop eager reporters from committing the same mistakes in the future, though it seems we have not learned from our past mistakes after more than 20 years of experience on the matter.
On a different note, Daily Sabah's website features additional languages and is now available in Arabic. As we look at the most-read stories of Daily Sabah every week, the presence of news about Arabic speaking countries is quite visible. By adding the language itself, we will probably see an increase in such content as well.