Media as protest trigger: Turkish government takes over country’s largest newspaper

Newsrooms raided by police, journalists pushed out of their offices, editors replaced with state representatives: these are the images that brought hundreds of Turks from their homes to the streets in early March to call for media freedom.
The public manifestation of dissent sparked by the Erdogan government’s decision to take over Zaman, Turkey’s most circulated newspaper, underlines the need to foreground media in the study of protest. At the same time, however, the episode illustrates the multiple roles that media actors and institutions can play in protest contexts.
While media outlets such as Zaman itself are usually the means protesters use to spread their message, this weekend’s events in Turkey show that media can also be the trigger for mobilisation.
While the question of identifying and documenting protest triggers is a task to be tackled in the phases of the project devoted to framing and narrative analysis, reports of these protests in Turkey also have a bearing on the first phases of our coding, which lay the foundations for later interpretive work. One of the variables included in the basic mapping of the sample is the topic of the news reports we code. One topic category is ‘media repression’. The manifestations in Turkey are a reminder of the need for such a coding category.

News coverage, then, is both the focus of reporting and what we study. The television reports of this story feed the project with material for the more interpretative stages of the research. Protesters blocking the police from entering the newspaper’s offices or demonstrators holding the publication’s last issue before the takeover are just two examples of images that will be further analysed in the framing and narrative stages of Study 1, ‘Mediated Protest of Today’.

Luiza Chiroiu