Image courtesy of olive eyes on Flickr (c) Creative Commons.
“There is now a menace which is called Twitter,” said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. What started as a sit-in against the commercial development of Istanbul’s last downtown park has exploded into a massive movement against the authoritarianism, Islamization, and commercialism. And once again, citizen video and social media are at the center of the storm.
Erdogan has been democratically elected (twice), and remains widely popular among those outside Turkey’s urban areas. Because of Turkey’s established democracy, a vibrant economy, and other factors, it is unlikely that this will become a ‘Turkish Spring’ —hashtags notwithstanding.
It’s not difficult to see why Erdogan is disparaging social media. Citizen journalism on Twitter and YouTube has shown on-the-ground views at a time when Turkish media have been largely silent. Time magazine reported, “Many press outlets are downplaying the protests. On Saturday, one of the country’s leading papers, owned the Prime Minister’s son-in-law, buried the story. …CNN Turk, a leading news network, aired a cooking show, plus documentaries about a 1970s novelist, dolphin training and penguins.”
The forces that have quieted mainstream media have fueled an incredible outpouring on social media. An analysis out of New York University showed that in roughly 24 hours, there were “at least 2 million tweets mentioning hashtags related to the protest, such as #direngeziparkı (950,000 tweets), #occupygezi (170,000 tweets) or #geziparki (50,000 tweets)”. Furthermore, the numbers suggest a very home-grown movement: 90% of all geolocated tweets are coming from within Turkey, and 88% of the tweets are in Turkish.
Video is playing a very prominent role. The Human Rights Channel is collecting verified videos from protests across Turkey in a dedicated playlist. The following clips have been verified by Storyful, a partner in the Human Rights Channel:
The government claims that the protesters are extremists and “looters,” but through citizen video, the protesters speak for themselves:
This citizen journalist, filming a protest in Ankara, when he is struck by what appears to be a tear gas canister (impact at 0:20; the location but not the object verified):
Protesters in Izmir, Turkey’s third biggest city, set fire to the offices of AKP, Erdogan’s party:
A Foreign Policy blog post outlines several other noteworthy videos, as well as some creatively spliced, 6-second Vine videos.
If you have others that you’d like to submit, please tweet them to @ythumanrights.
If you’re filming, in Turkey or elsewhere, check out WITNESS’ guidelines for filming protests. There’s one below, and more here.
Kim Howell is the Online Communications Coordinator at WITNESS. She manages the blog and supports outreach to media and online communities. Follow her at @Kimplicate.