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Gezi Park Protests and New Discursive Spaces

by Ethan Tussey

by Bilge Yesil for IN MEDIA RES

In early June 2013, anti-government protests were raging in Istanbul and across several cities in Turkey. On mainstream media, however, there was a total blackout— an outcome of the political economic alliances between media conglomerates and the ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party). As major news channels (NTV, CNNTurk, HaberTurk) chose to ignore the protests and the police violence, they came to be labeled “penguin media,” in reference to a penguin documentary CNNTurk was broadcasting on the night of intense clashes in central Istanbul. In the meantime, pro-government outlets were engaged in a heavy disinformation campaign that portrayed protestors as minions in a foreign conspiracy.

The Gezi Park protests brought into sharp focus the long-standing malaise of news media in Turkey: clientelism, self-censorship and instrumentalization of reporting. Protestors’ discontent was evident when they showed up in front of NTV headquarters and chanted “sell-out media.” In the absence of journalistic coverage and ubiquitous government propaganda, protestors and citizens alike (mostly young and urban) resorted to Twitter as a communication tool, news source and form of protest. Alternative news sites and portals also gained traction. Meanwhile, some protestors started online outlets to live-stream the events, provide commentary and/or disseminate information. Among them is Capul TV, launched by a handful of Gezi Park activists with the motto “The Medium of the Resistance.” (Capul is the Turkish word for "looter" which the Prime Minister used to describe the protestors). From its makeshift studios in the Gezi Park encampment, Capul TV broadcast live interviews with protestors, intellectuals and artists, and provided an insider’s view of the park. Soon activists began to upload videos on YouTube to document the street protests, clashes with the police, and neighborhood forums and to fill the void left by traditional news media.

Today, Capul TV serves as an independent, online television channel, and is voluntarily sponsorship-free. Self-defined as a group engaged in the struggle for “people’s right to communication,” it functions as a news portal, platform for citizen journalism and collection of Gezi-related films. It also features live-streamed programs on a nightly basis covering politics, arts and culture. The video clip I chose is a trailer for a documentary titled “The Rhythm of Gezi” on the intersection of music and politics, and is one of countless videos available on Capul TV’s website-- a new discursive space opened up by the Gezi Park protests.

Gezi Resistance documentary

A new documentary about Gezi Resistance

from Gezi'nin Ritmi & Rhythm of Gezi . trailer (2014)
Creator: Güvenç Özgür
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey