Peace and fear journalism

The newspaper “Cumhuriyet” has a new TV spot to boost the sales of their daily. You see a young, modern Turkish woman getting covered in black Islamist chador. Then you hear her saying with a male voice: “It’s me who decides on what to wear, of course”. A voice-over says: “Women of the republic are vanishing. Stand up and defend your republic!” The Turkish word for ‘republic’ is Cumhuriyet.
Cumhuriyet was once an independent newspaper – it still is, in so far as it is not part of a big media group using newspapers only as a business venture. Over the last couple of years, they have been seen more and more as the mouth-piece of the military. This ad fits that image. To me, it’s also a sad example of ‘fear journalism’. Yes there are women in chador on the street, but to make it seem as if more and more women are rapidly ‘vanishing’ is a gross exaggeration, and it scares people. In my eyes, it’s shameful for a newspaper to manipulate and scare people in this way.
Cumhuriyet is not the only one to manipulate and scare people, a lot of newspapers (and TV news shows) do it. But I get some hope from a conference that was held in Istanbul a few days ago, a conference about peace journalism. That’s journalism that promotes non-violent solutions to war and conflict. There were also journalists attending from newspapers that in general are better at fear than at peace journalism, and apparently they are willing to look at themselves. One of them said journalists try to report in a less manipulative way, but “we are experiencing a situation where violent styles are valued” (quote from Today’s Zaman). That’s not a situation that will easily be changed, but it’s very good that at least some journalists are trying.

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