As Friday came to an end and people prepared for their weekend, met with friends and were unwinding from work stress, the noise of jets breaking the sound barrier heralded the beginning of a long night. The first sign was when soldiers, following the orders of a military junta, closed the Bosporus Bridge. Since the Nice attack was fresh in everyone's mind, first suspicions were of a terrorist attack. In retrospect these were somewhat right, but this time they did not realize who it was. As initial reports started to trickle from Ankara on social media as well as through television, the realization grew that Turkey was once again experiencing an attempted coup.
The Turkish media, despite attacks and seizures by these terrorists, for the most part performed admirably, emphasizing democracy and disobeying the junta's order for them to repeat their message and broadcast their manifesto. To the best of their ability they informed the public, and emerged from a long night for Turkey with their reputation and honor untarnished. What can be said for the international media?
Not much positive can be said in that regard, especially during the early hours of the attempted coup when things looked like it could go either way. There were cases where international media outlets legitimized the coup attempt, referring to previous coups as "bloodless" or by publishing articles critical of the current administration of Turkey. An example of the latter was done by none other than The New York Times, whose Twitter account promoted a previous article titled: "Turkish Leader Erdogan Making New Enemies and Frustrating Old Friends," with the comment: "A look at [President Recep Tayyip] Erdogan's controversial rule in Turkey, published just days ago." This tweet was sent just two hours after the junta began their coup attempt while the ground was uncertain, yet The New York Times shared an article with rhetoric that was supportive of the junta. What was next if the attempt was successful, a tweet saying that our boys did it?
Sputnik News took it one step further though. They published photos of people protesting the coup, risking their lives by facing the coup soldiers' tanks, helicopters and guns and branded it: "Images from the ground in #Turkey show people celebrating #TurkeyCoup." It appears they thought "subtlety be damned" and went straight to spreading misinformation.
Of course as events unfolded during the night, there were reports that tried to manipulate events. The private intelligence firm Stratfor reported that Erdoğan had sought asylum in Germany, along with media organizations such as the Sunday Express and Washington Post, with the latter using flimsy sources to suggest the president could also be headed to Tehran. The Daily Beast said: "Erdogan reportedly denied asylum in Germany, now headed to London." If we consider these reports, it looks as if Erdoğan had tried to re-enact "Around the World in Eighty Days" before landing in Istanbul. Sarcasm aside, had these reports taken root in the minds of the people, we would be having a much different conversation.
FOX News was not late to the party. Retired Lt. Col. Ralph Peters appeared on FOX News's "The O'Reilly Factor" and gave his expert opinion, singing the praises of the terrorist junta, saying: "They're against the Islamists, fundamentalists and extremists. They're for democracy. They're for a secular constitution." FOX News Twitter account posted: "Lt. Col Peters on Turkey: ‘If the coup succeeds, Islamists lose and we win.' "
Other international media sources endorsed the junta, whose helicopters opened fire on the public, and continued through the night to stress a rhetoric that the military is secular and Erdoğan is an Islamist. After the people clearly thwarted the coup attempt with support from forces loyal to Turkey's elected representatives, the international media changed gears, but let us leave that to the next week's Reader's Corner, when we hopefully will discuss how the media handled the aftermath of the attempted coup. As this terrible ordeal met with a triumphant end, I wish the best to all of our colleagues in İstanbul and Ankara, among the primary targets of the junta.