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Citizen Journalism Springs From Protests in Turkey

Taksim Suare, Turkey, June 22, 2013

Taksim Suare, Turkey, June 22, 2013

Here is an article I edited for a Turkish friend. Cross posted from The Vancouver Vector:  http://www.vancouvervector.com/

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by Taylan Harman

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I woke up one morning in my London flat feeling down about the world, like nothing had changed and our media was just a scandal all over. I switched on my PC on May 30, as usual, but came across something very out of the ordinary. People were posting things online about protests in Gezi Park, in Istanbul, Turkey, and about police violence whilst the media remained completely silent.

The next day was the breaking point; police violence had escalated to a level not seen in years. The use of tear gas and TOMA trucks had increased to such an extent that the police thought it was okay to aim the tear gas canisters at the faces of citizens. These tear gas mixtures can kill and have caused irreparable damage to some people, including twelve who have lost an eye. It was in the very early morning hours of June 1 when tweets and Facebook posts increased by at least fifty-fold. People were posting live information about what was going on in the protests via social media.

Live updates, pictures, locations on where to hide from police, information about Wi-Fi passwords in the area as the network signals were blocked in Taksim Square, and even information about volunteer doctors and begging requests to not turn to violence were all over the micro-blogosphere. This gave birth to one of the most potent, moving and admirable examples of citizen journalism in recent years.

This was all done by people who had no self-interest or stake in the outcome of the protest, but rather by concerned citizens who had the interest of the general public at heart. Not once did anyone moan or groan about being without sleep. Not once did anyone complain about working hard to make sure the right information was given to the public, whilst media giant CNN Turk was broadcasting a documentary about penguins.

Citizen Journalism Springs From Protests in TurkeyAs the uprisings increased, so did the spontaneous, unplanned information-sharing network of tens of thousands. From the person on the ground being targeted by teargas to the person on a computer thousands of miles away, people were coming together to spread and share up-to-date information. Now this has resulted in what looks like a permanent citizen-controlled media – by the public and for the public. Certain groups have been created that bring together those who know two or more languages so information can be translated and published for the world to see. Information about the uprising were translated and shared mostly through social-networking sites in all parts of the world.

It is really inspiring and a lesson for all of us to learn. We do not need the mainstream media; we can take care of each other much better without them! This is a lesson all power is afraid of. Despite provocation, threats, and smear campaigns, this citizen-owned media has managed to hold people together, share factual information, and keep pleading with people to never get violent. And it has worked beyond imagination.

It has also given rise to a new forms of art; it has given a free space to art that had been suppressed by the media for years. This has given the public, for the first time in history, the ability to see and learn things about their country that they have not witnessed before.

Any word of praise will not be enough. What we all need to learn is one simple lesson: selfless people that have the interest of the public at heart are capable of breaking any barrier put in front of them. All they need is a little hope and support! All they need is citizen journalism.

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