I’m watching the Turkish news. Last weekend, four soldiers were killed by a PKK bomb in the southeast of the country, and yesterday and today they were buried. Some TV news bulletins start with pictures of the funerals: slow motion images of the coffin, wrapped in a Turkish flag, the now widowed wife falling on the coffin crying, the soldier’s father being comforted by his family and friends. The streets are full of people applauding as a last goodbye. Practically all the news bulletins put sombre music behind the images, and most of them find a crying baby to show too – sometimes the son or daughter of the fallen soldier, sometimes another child.
Dramatic pictures of course, and they touch me. But, as a journalist, it gets on my nerves a bit too. An objective news bulletin would also include this news, but without the dramatic music, without the slow motion pictures. They would just tell the news: ‘The 24 year old soldier who was killed by a bomb allegedly*) placed alongside the road by the PKK, was laid to rest today in his home town. There was enormous grief not only among the family but also in the village, and hundreds of people came to pay their last respects.’ Something like that.
But then I wonder if that’s how it would really be in my country, the Netherlands, if again and again Dutch soldiers were being killed on their own soil over internal troubles that really arouse emotions. We have never experienced that in the Netherlands. Of course, in Turkey emotions are also hyped by the media that make some news as dramatic as possible: it’s an on-going cycle, also fed by the need of most of the TV stations to earn money and attract and please viewers. How would TV stations in the Netherlands react if bombs started going off in the city centre of Amsterdam, on the beach near The Hague, near mills and tulip fields where all the tourists come? If for decades Dutch soldiers were being killed on Dutch soil, young guys who had their whole lives ahead of them?
I don’t know, because it’s just unimaginable. But Turkey is experiencing it again and again, week after week, year after year. Whatever you think about the cause of all the violence and what keeps it going, despite all the politics behind it, in the end, normal Turks are faced with the consequences. What if it were normal Dutch people? What would our news do? What do you think?
*) I say ‘allegedly’, because last week it turned out that a bomb that killed seven soldiers last May was most probably one laid by the Turkish army themselves, even though the army said it was a PKK mine. The army hasn’t reacted to this news yet, but it makes it clear that it cannot always be automatically assumed that every bomb or mine comes from the PKK.