Tweeting from court

This week a few important court cases were continuing in Turkey. In Istanbul there was a hearing in the case against the murderers of Hrant Dink (read some more here and here) and also the Balyoz case continued (read more here), in Diyarbakir the KCK trials continued (more info in the same article). In another Istanbul court room, the case against jailed journalists Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener was starting. All important cases, in which the reliablility of the judicial system in Turkey is at stake. Unfortunately, I, and some others, got a bit distracted from the importance of these cases.

Let me explain. Journalism in Turkey is not always on the level you wish it would be. There is a lot of framing going on, nationalism is widespread, there is not much nuance in the news. So I am grateful to be following a lot of people on twitter that counterbalance the reporting on TV and in the papers. They tweet, like I very often do myself, from demonstrations or other events, they tweet articles that I wouldn’t easily find myself, they point out who to follow for certain events, etcetera. Some of them even tweet from court houses, which was of course ultra interesting this week.

Flabbergasted

Especially the case against Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener got a lot of attention on twitter – of course, since many tweeting colleagues and friends of both journalists care about the case. I was so glad to find that one of these tweeps was in court tweeting in English: journalist and columnist Ece Temelkuran (follow her at @ETemelkuran). I followed her, thanked her at the end of her day for her great tweets, and that was it.
Imagine how flabbergasted I was when one day later I found out Ece was not in court at all, but hundreds of kilometers away, in Tunesia’s capital Tunis. This doesn’t mean she is a fraud or something, totally not, but it does mean that not all on twitter is what it seems like. Well, of course it isn’t, I’m not that naive of course, but even with people who tweet using their own name and are famous and successful in journalism, you can’t really be sure.

At first, I reacted somewhat over the top to her – my excuse is that I really felt deceived. Ece reacted quickly, explaining that some tweeps formed a group a few days before, and she was the one who would translate Turkish tweets to English. Now that’s twit-power, and I mean it! But: how could I know? The nature of twitter is that it’s fast and gone before you know it. Ece got many new followers that day, like me, who had no idea about the action plan of her and a few other tweeps. Maybe, I stated, it would have been wiser to now and then tweet that she was not actually *in* the courthouse, but translating tweets from others. That would have been a kind of reporting that would suit the nature of twitter. I think as a journalist you should be very aware of the nature of the medium you use, to use it to the max.

Judges nerves

Ece didn’t react to me anymore. And unfortunately, my tweets were picked up by others, and seem to have resulted in some campaign against Ece. That’s also twitter, or should I say: that’s also Turkey. Black and white, no nuance. I reject that deeply. I think it’s great Ece took the time and the effort to translate the over-interesting tweets of mainly @oemoral and @petite1ze for a big audience that doesn’t know (good enough) Turkish to read and fully understand all Turkish tweets. It is not only great, it is even important, because it contributed to a better understanding of what is going on in Turkey’s justice system. Twitter is even so important, that it got on the judges nerves and after some time tweeting from the court room was forbidden. (Ece kept tweeting, so I thought she was being brave to go against the judges order… Turns out the tweets she translated after the judges ban were written by tweeps in the court building but after some point not anymore in the court room).

Why I write such a long blog post about this? Isn’t the case of the jailed journalists more important than some twitter rant about it? It is, and that’s exactly the point I would like to make. I’d like to address that message to those who attack Ece now for reasons unclear to me. But I address it also to my colleagues twittering about important news issues. Be as open and clear as you can be. Always realize twitter is cursory, followers come and go all the time, not everybody always knows your whereabouts, not even when you’re famous. Twitter is becoming more and more important in spreading news from first hand, and let’s use that great freedom twitter offers to get news out as trustworthy as possible – that’s in the end what journalism is about, right? It will only strengthen the message you want to get through, being: Freedom for journalists!

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