We are selfish creatures. That I always knew. “We” have to get the news. “We” have to report them first in “our” medium. In most of the cases “we” are far above the truth. We are the journalists. We bend the facts, we manipulate perception, we make it look like if we didn’t happen to be there, the events wouldn’t even have happened at all. We carry the egoism of a lone predator to all walks of life we engage in. We are distant people, but once we sniff the smell of blood, we charm, we maim, we scorch, we conquer. All in the name of the right of information of the people, by the people, for the people. In reality, we are no different from the brain surgeon for whom the success of an operation, hence her(his) success as a surgeon, balances tightly with the life of the patient, even sometimes overweighing the latter.
We live in an era where concepts fail to match the nouns that define them in people’s minds. In many societies justice may not mean justice, opinion does not always equate to a view. Not only the way people perceive them, but also in the way accepted values of the system use these concepts. Turkey last week tried journalists on accusations that they have aided and embedded a terrorist organization with their views, reports or books. Does it even make sense?
None of the detained members of this terrorist organization have been convicted so far. Although hundreds of people are in jail for years because of allegations of either being a member of (or aiding and embedding), or acting to overthrow the civilian government through this terrorist organization, not one single person was convicted yet. The indictment against these journalists tried last week was full of hearsay and comments of certain informants whose names and whereabouts are not even disclosed to the court. In the same courtroom, there were journalists whose ideologies are totally opposite to and never met each other in their lives.
And yet, all the media followed the hearings. Because we wanted to stand by our colleagues. Because we wanted to defend freedom of press. And because we were after the charade and heroic statements dictated live right from the courtroom. Supporters of our comrades were tight on the view that “the judiciary system in Turkey is in total chaos and have lost its credibility after the developments of recent years.” An opinion with which I totally agree. For a simple reason. Fairness is the litmus paper of jurisdiction. Systems of justice as they approach fairness they gain acceptance in public conscience. As they move further away, they become the oppressive “bitch of the governments” as once Bakunin said. I do agree. But the next day, when a former chief of staff of the armed forces was arrested, we couldn’t wait to start backing up the very judicial system we were criticizing a day before. Not because of that soldier’s non-refutable innocence. But because we should be consistent enough to see that, while others are free and dandy even after engaging in a successful coup d’état, jailing recent brass is one way or another political. But we followed the lead, we became the flock if necessary, and we scored the points. We are journalists.
We are so journalists that, in the middle of an economic crisis, when a colleague loses her (his) job, our reaction is on the ideological lines. Sorry, not even that! Our reaction is on personal terms. One colleague tweeted after such an event that
“somebody should give her a job as soon as possible. I hate her so much that not being able to write to put her down gives me depression.”
Last night reports that in Southeastern Turkey near the town of Cizre, on Cudi mountain there were clashes between armed forces and PKK guerrillas invaded social media. There were allegations that chemical weapons might have been used. Two local news agencies passed the information and pro-Kurdish BDP officials decided to go to the region to investigate the news. Even mainstream media started to pass on the news. But later in the night when I called my contacts in town, there were no evidence to support the news. As of the writing of this article we cannot be sure on what happened there last night.
Here we have two problems:
The first was the haste of Kurdish journalists. They are right when they accuse mainstream media to keep silent in the face of important events or engage in provocative news breaking and language. But when you are inflicted by the same plague how can you accuse others? Being right and on the side of the oppressed does not forfeit one’s obligation towards fairness and truth. Remember the judiciary system?
The second and more important problem is the lack of investigative journalism among my peers. I have no report of anyone going to the region to investigate the events today. My colleagues prefer to speak when they are right and they are easy on criticizing others. When it comes to dirty our own hands, it becomes almost impossible to leave the comfort of our chairs.
Nowadays we lament our friends in jail. I can vouch at least for two of them; Ahmet (Şık) and Nedim (Şener) are there in jail not because they were couch potatoes, but because they spent all their lives in the field doing what they were supposed to do. That’s the reason why they can proudly defend themselves and judge the court that is supposed to judge them. More importantly they can speak of the truth in fairness.
Maybe the jurisdiction kind would respect their profession better, or even the politicians would take after our example if we, the judges of the media would start to respect ours more and raise the level of fairness and truth in our dealings. This might sound naive to most, but in life one’s first responsibly is unto himself. That’s one lesson I learned well in the past.