In a recent video about Turkey’s 24 June elections, the BBC left out any sense of meaningful context. And in doing so, it insulted millions of people who’ve been fighting against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s consistent attacks on peace and democracy.
The BBC: sanitising the politics of Turkey
The video promised to tell viewers ‘what they needed to know’. But it failed miserably, giving instead a thoroughly sanitised and misleading view of Turkish politics.
Viewers might forgive the BBC for economising in order to keep its video short. But it would have taken a matter of seconds to mention that the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT) recently found Erdoğan and the Turkish state guilty of war crimes against Kurdish communities. And it would have taken just a moment to mention that the current regime has reportedly turned Turkey into “the world’s biggest prison” for journalists. So there’s no excuse.
On the whole, the BBC simply sidestepped Erdoğan’s record in power, ignoring allegations of ethnic cleansing, support for terrorists and alliances with neo-Nazis, the fuelling of Syria’s civil war, looting, and lying. And in doing so, it stuck two fingers up at Erdoğan’s victims.
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) June 8, 2018
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An insult to political prisoners
One of the most offensive things about the video was the BBC‘s failure to challenge the ‘terrorist’ label given to a high-level political prisoner and peace campaigner. Referring to presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtaş, it pointed out that he was “running from prison on terrorism charges”. But it skipped over the fact that those are “trumped-up charges”, according to a 2017 letter from numerous public figures and UK MPs. And it didn’t mention that Erdoğan has also called anti-war students “terrorists”.
The truth is that Turkey’s regime has been targeting Demirtaş’s left-wing and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) ever since its electoral successes in 2015 helped to take away Erdoğan’s majority. After those successes, Erdoğan ended peace talks with militants from the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), waged war against them and their allies at home and abroad, and cracked down on his opponents. And for Erdoğan and the right-wing nationalists supporting him, it didn’t matter that the HDP and PKK were different organisations. So by late 2017, his regime had reportedly arrested around 11,000 HDP members – including elected politicians.
Who are the terrorists again?
Activist groups recently accused UK prime minister Theresa May of racism after she repeated Erdoğan’s propaganda about ‘Kurdish terrorists’. And Peace in Kurdistan’s Melanie Gingell highlighted Turkey’s attacks on majority-Kurdish communities in 2015 and 2016 to make her point, saying:
The government used heavy weaponry and aerial strikes on densely populated areas. Approximately 2,000 people were killed as well as numerous other violations…
this was an attempted genocide of the Kurdish people, not an ‘armed clash’…
When you hear these matters, you cannot avoid the question, ‘who are the terrorists here?’
We deserve the whole truth
Activists have also denounced the BBC’s poor coverage on Turkey recently. And indeed, the UK government may be desperate to bag Turkey as a post-Brexit trade partner, selling it over $1bn worth of arms in the last two years. But the BBC has a duty of impartiality. So when it helps to whitewash the crimes of the Turkish state, it doesn’t just let down the people fighting for democracy and peace – it lets itself down too.
It’s time we all demanded better.
– If you believe the BBC has failed to provide due impartiality in any of its coverage, you can complain here.
– Write to Theresa May and your MP. Ask them to urge Turkey to resume peace talks with its internal opponents, and to release all political prisoners. Until that happens, ask them to cancel and stop approving arms sales to Turkey; and support Campaign Against Arms Trade to help make that happen.
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