IBNA/Exclusive interview with Hande Firat: “How I spoke with Erdogan via cell phone”

IBNA/Exclusive interview with Hande Firat: “How I spoke with Erdogan via cell phone”

Ankara, July 18, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Manolis Kostidis

Hande Firat is a correspondent of Kanal D and CNN Türk in Ankara

Did you speak with Mr Erdogan that night via Skype or via Facetime? Because there is a mix-up with the issue. 

It was through Facetime and it was a good connection as you saw (smiles).

How did the connection take place? You called him, he called you…? How was the decision for this original interview taken?

Once the news of the attempted coup became known I had already started calling up my sources. In this context I was in constant open communication with the president’s special secretary, to know where the president was, if he is alive, whether would make a statement, where he would do it, etc.

I was informed that he would make an announcement to the Press but that in the place where he was there were armed conflicts, battles, helicopters flew. As such, it wasn’t possible for journalists to go there nor to make any statements. The secretary informed me that there would be a statement-transmission via Periscope (live broadcast application). But no one would be able to see it. I suggested it be made through us. To show that the president is alive and speak to us. I was sitting in the studio at the time and waited.

Did you expect this interview to happen?

No, the special secretary hung up. Immediately after he invited me via Facetime. I answered and before me I saw President Erdogan! At the time we were not on “air”, we were broadcasting from Istanbul. When I said that I have the president nobody believed me at first. In a few minutes they made the proper connections, I took off my microphone and did this story. I was thinking that while we have lived coups in Turkey, this time above us (Ankara) flew fighter jets. We aren’t used to these things. We are in 2016. My daughter was sending messages asking me if I am ok. She was asking why the soldiers are throwing bombs at us? I am 42 years old. I feared for my safety, for my country. I was also worried whether the president was alive. So I rushed to the phone and this was the result.

It was in a different way, using the new technology, that is why it provoked impression.

Yes that is the case, but in our family when we talk among ourselves sometimes use Facetime. This was the format that came to my mind, the secretary of Erdogan agreed and it succeeded!

After what happened did you have the opportunity to speak with the president? Because this interview is considered the most important step that stopped the coup.

I talked to Hassan (special secretary of the President) and told me that the President would call me and thanked me. The Prime minister called me today and said “thank you on behalf of the government and the people for your whole stance”. Ministers, MPs from the government and from the opposition also called and thanked me.

The truth is that when I did the interview my only goal was the news. Because our building is quite close to the presidential palace, the warplanes at the time were dropping bombs. Helicopters were firing. Six times during the night we went to the underground shelters to hide. We feared.

The next morning I realized the power of the story I did.

That night I was forced to “send away” to their homes the journalists from the building as we feared for their safety. Only the director and the editor-in-chief stayed behind.