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February 17, 2013, Sunday

Some decency please!

It is an entrenched habit of the Turkish press and media to exploit sexuality in order to boost circulation figures or ratings. If this had been only a limited number of marginal newspapers which resort to this ignominious method, they could have hidden themselves behind other poor examples around the world. Unfortunately, many mainstream media outlets are no different from the marginal ones in this regard.

This was the case in the past, and it still is. But if you attempt to criticize this style of vile journalism which seeks to exploit human weaknesses, you find yourself under the shower of harsh remarks and insults. They fire the same bullet. They quickly accuse you of acting like an officer of a vice squad. OK, it is wrong to act like a vice squad officer, but who has the right to destroy the morality of a society? Moreover, this form of sexual exploitation not only severs ties between journalism and human and family values, but also disrupts the values of society.

Just have a look at the most popular stories of recent days and you get a sense of what is going on. For instance, our archaic media outlets are shouting in chorus. What do they say? "How can Turkish Airlines [THY] decide to impose longer hemlines for female flight attendants?" They further wail, "How can THY stop serving alcoholic drinks on some routes?" As a matter of fact, these two matters can be discussed with common sense. But angry attacks destroy the very atmosphere for sound and constructive debate. Indeed, whenever women's bodies or alcoholic drinks are in question, these media outlets seem to treat them as their sacred symbols.

Let me maintain the debate with a more innocent matter: Valentine's Day. Just have a look at the photos published and news stories printed in connection with this day, and you will see how they are dominated by obscenity and how sexuality is exploited to the fullest. Unfortunately, as the strand of feminism valid in our country has been crushed under other ideologies, a significant portion of women's organizations tend to be muted in the face of this method of marketing the sexuality of women.

Everything is obvious. Just have a look at the pages of the newspapers which still see themselves as the mainstream media. I am sure you'll feel ashamed and want to hide them from your children. This applies particularly to the violent eroticism of the supplements. Is this journalism or tabloid journalism? Don't the media bosses feel any remorse for publishing dozens of nude photos of women every days and reducing their papers (the TV channels are worse) to “marketing” women? Where on earth do mainstream media resort to such violent methods of abusing women? Does any reputable paper around the world stick to marketing women, tossing out journalism in the process?

Worse still, some media outlets have carved themselves a room on the Internet in an effort to effectively use the online forum, but they brought their morbid mentality with them. I am not even discussing the damage done by some newly established websites which lack any brand value. They abound in insidious methods. What do they say? This increases hits. The indecency called the "Photo Gallery" has nothing to do with journalism whatsoever. The images posted under the video sharing category have no connection whatsoever to journalism. Which journalism criterion allows them to abuse a person referred to in a normal news story by posting photos or videos or him or her as well?

Please look at the newspapers also from this perspective as well and you will see some papers report a protest against violence against women in a way that abuses women. And they do this as if it is to defend the rights of women. And it is such a sly method that every method turns into a "fifth column." Last week, certain media outlets sent their reporters to the Rio carnival. Every year, they allocate ample room to the photos taken of that celebration. And they do not forget to publish the "seductive" images from the Grammy awards ceremony. They say that the organizers of the Grammy awards banned indecent clothes, but celebrities did not surrender to this ban. Can't they see how those photos published or posted to prove this tend to widen the gap between newspapers and families, and how they put the media in stark contrast with the majority of the public?

Turkish media are heading down on the wrong path. I am afraid the desire to boost circulation figures through abuse of sexuality will bring an end to the Turkish media. Really, the collective conscience will not yield to this abuse. Moreover, modern law is seeking to develop sanctions against sexual abuse, the existence of which is a big problem for modern society. A cure will eventually be found and the abusers that directly threaten human dignity and cause social erosion will be punished. If you don't believe my words, just have a look at what happened in Europe last week. Not only have several newspapers decided to prevent this abuse, but some governments as well are preparing to pass bills to eliminate abusers.

History of fickleness

Not everything our archaic media do is wrong. That would be unfair. They are quite good at fickleness. Even if you bring all the media outlets of the world together, they cannot challenge the ingenuity of the fickleness of our media. It is for this reason that they are constantly criticized as being "spineless," among other things, lacking any principle or established practice. Yet there is nothing surprising in that fact, as they act constantly as if they were in a masquerade ball.

For instance, they target THY and do everything to attack it. They come up with an "ingenious" invention for "conceptualization." They refer to THY as "Slipper Airlines" in an effort to defame a senior bureaucrat who was returning from the Muslim pilgrimage wearing slippers. But they forget about that bureaucrat's extraordinary success in making THY one of the top-performing airlines in the world. But they don't stop there. They continue to attack this successful corporation, referring to new uniform designs or the new policy about serving alcoholic drinks. Funnily, their attacks start with the following acknowledgement, "As a matter of fact, THY has recently undertaken great achievements, but…" Pardon me, but doesn't THY belong to Turkey?

And several volumes of books wouldn't be enough to describe their fickleness concerning the coup cases. They act as if there hadn't been numerous (successful/abortive) coups in this country. They come up with unthinkable plots in an effort to discredit the trials concerning Ergenekon -- a clandestine organization nested within the state trying to overthrow or manipulate the democratically elected government -- and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) coup plan. And they treat the smallest trace of something as a big piece of evidence. And so on.

The latest examples include: When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan visited Ergin Saygun, a convict at the Balyoz trial, they went so far as to portray Erdoğan as a coup supporter. Some even suggested that all coup trials must be dropped. When the prime minister stressed that his visit was "humane," do you think this stopped them? I don't think so. They quickly changed their tactics to exhibit another example of their fickleness. Then came a new wave of arrests under the probe into the postmodern coup of Feb. 28, 1997 -- when the Turkish military forced the coalition government led by the now-defunct conservative Welfare Party (RP) out of power, citing alleged rising religious fundamentalism in the country. And they rushed to the prime minister in an effort to make him speak critically of prosecutors and judges, but in vain. Erdoğan told them that this must be done in order not to experience the negative developments of the past once again.

But we must be fair with their latest move of fickleness. Concerning the trial about a spy ring in İzmir, the court sent notices to every organization mentioned in the indictment. The court wanted to inform these organizations that some of their members are being accused of espionage. But some newspapers advertised the problem as being strictly related to the National Intelligence Organization (MİT). "Prime minister, as you see, they have eventually come to suggest that MİT is involved in this espionage. But you must do something to counter this," they mean to say. But things are not how they attempt to say they are. A great portion of the people involved are actually victims. What is more natural than informing the relevant institutions?

I believe books will be written in the future to cast light on the mysterious past of our press. These books will certainly put their ties to past coups under the spotlight. Numerous names can be proposed for inclusion in this history. My proposal is to name it "The History of Press Fickleness in Turkey" because Turkish media outlets quickly change their tune depending on changes in circumstance, and they are adept in dancing to the changing tunes.

Previous articles of the columnist