By Manolis Kostidis – Istanbul
“Twitter is a big pain for society – as are other social networking sites too – because they misinform people”, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told TV network Haberturk, essentially expressing his belief that social media played a big part in the recent demonstrations in Turkey.
The Turkish premier voiced this complaint, however, Turkish protestors express their anger at the stance Turkish television networks held during the protests, as they turned a blind eye to the news and did not broadcast what was going on in the streets.
While clashes occurred between demonstrators and police when the latter attacked protestors, Turkish network NTV aired a show on how to make the local delicacy of dolmades while another network, STAR TV, showed a beauty pageant. Most channels broadcast television series both Friday and Saturday. Almost no channel interrupted normal programming in order to show the news. “Was it a form of informal censorship”? Nobody knows. However, “the silence of the media” did not stop the news from spreading as Twitter wasn’t under anyone’s control.
The “pain” that is Twitter according to Erdogan, was the medium flooded with messages, photographs and videos that fueled the protests.
Everything began early Thursday morning. Turkish police had started to set fire to tents protestors camping at the Geza Park, in Taksim Square had put up. Pictures were posted on the internet causing the gathered crowds to grow. Images had not been broadcast on most television networks.
On Thursday evening, police fired teargas at the crowds. Videos from the police’s tough treatment of protestors roused people.
Friday was twitter’s day. Tens of thousands of people had turned up at Taksim Square while riot police used tear gas and armored vehicles to break up the massive peaceful protest. Turkish television showed nothing but on twitter and facebook our neighbors were informing the world of what was happening.
#occupygezi, #gezipark, #occupytaksim trended on the internet until the early morning hours. “We are in Besiktas, join us”, “two people injured in Pera” and “in Smyrna we are on the streets to support you” were just a few of the messages constantly spreading the news. Protestors used mobile phones to post pictures and videos online of police hitting people and of demonstrators lying injured, all the while broadcasting what TV channels were not.
It was a victory for twitter over traditional media.
Columnist Vatan Moutlou Tonbekici wrote: “A big boo to television. Perhaps it was the strangest, biggest and craziest night in Turkey and you (meaning television channels) showed dolma recipes”.