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We couldn’t hold the Mardin leg of “Gender Based Journalism“ workshop run by the IPS Communication Foundation in cooperation with the Kaos GL.
We read a news report entitled “Halkın tepkisine neden olan ‘eşcinsellik programı’ tekrar gündemde” (The ‘homosexuality program’ that sparked reactions in public is back on the agenda) on Mardin Life news site citing İLKHA news agency on November 9 as we were getting prepared for the workshop.
The news underlines the panel which couldn’t be held due to “people’s negative reaction”, and questions “why a program centered around ‘homosexuality’ is insistently tried to be held in Mardin”.
It is important where these incidents happen to have a better grasp of the context. Departing from this point, let me share here a media scanning limited with November and the developments connected with our subject.
Let us look at the number of news reports that Media Monitoring Center browses with the keyword “LGBTI”. The keyword was included in 13 news reports in the printed press on November 1-9; in 54 news on November 10-19; in 97 news in online media on November 1-9; in 233 news on November 10-19.
In his speech he held at the Presidential Palace at 41st meeting with the village chiefs, President and Justice and Development Party (AKP) Chair Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said:
“A party bearing the ‘main opposition party’ title has become so distant from our nation that now the CHP imposes a gay quota in the ratio of one fifth for the election to be made at District Municipality Neighborhood Committees.
“When a party loses its balance, it is driven away like this”.
Mardin workshop being reported in the media on the day of this speech and the following incidents recall Erdoğan’s speech.
Such reports have increased three to fourfold. The contents have weighed on threats, calling on the governors to step in and call for bans rather than rights violations.
2 bans by the governorship
Planned to be organized in Turkey's capital Ankara, German LGBTI Film Days program was banned by Ankara Governorship on November 16 following hate attacks carried out on Twitter with the hashtags #LGBTFilmGünleriİptalEdilsin (#MayLGBTFilmDaysBeCancelled) and #İstiklalimizeKaraLeke (#BlackMarkOnOurFreedom).
The program would have been realized in cooperation with the Embassy of Germany, Kuirfest (QueerFest) and Büyülü Fener Sinemaları (Magical Lantern Movies) on November 16-17.
Let us see how the governorship justifies the ban:
“Considering that the content could incite grudges and enmity toward a part of society... and the intelligence reports that terror organizations are seeking to attack dissident groups or individuals, it is evaluated that this film screening could be provocative and draw reactions.
Don’t look for any relation with this justification and German LGBTI Film Days. Ankara Governorship didn’t find this ban sufficient. On November 19, it banned “events organized by the LGBTI organizations” indefinitely.
In the second ban, the “reasons” increased including “social sensitivity and sensibilities”, “inciting people to enmity and grudge”, “protection of public health and morality” and “protection of others’ rights and freedoms”.
From November 9 to November 19, the reports targeting German LGBTI Film Days, ban of all LGBTI related events and campaigns against the Gender Based Journalism Workshop mixed with each other.
We keep monitoring closely
During this period, we as bianet and Kaos GL have been monitoring the situation. The journalists and legists, whom we spoke with, from Mardin and neighboring cities are on the same page that Mardin downtown is calm, therefore there wouldn’t be any problem.
We spoke with an MP from the governing party. He/she was of the opinion that there was no need to worry, yet, he/she told us that he/she would speak to a couple of people in Mardin.
In the meantime, the level of threats in the reports were increasing. The MP didn’t call back. A friend stepped in to arrange a meeting with the governor and personally called him as they knew each other in person. In return, no one called back.
51 news reports
43 online and eight printed news reports released with the same headlines from November 9 to November 19 were related to Mardin workshop. Apparently, the authorities didn’t see these provocative 51 news reports that threaten and demand bans.
On November 16, we decided to cancel the workshop due to the death threats.
In a petition submitted to the governorship, we said that we will not hold the workshop and requested precautions to be taken for the workshop. On the same day, we made a news report on bianet that we wouldn’t hold the workshop.
For the people who launched campaigns against us, the headline was ready: They stepped back!
Kaos GL is 23 and bianet is 17 years old. Of course I don’t intend to speak about what successful things we’ve achieved. I’ll restrict myself to expressing that we as bianet and Kaos GL have been organizing workshops for years.
Mardin workshop was the 11th workshop as part of the project we held with support of the Kaos GL. The previous workshops were held in İstanbul, Mersin, Bursa, İzmir, Eskişehir, Trabzon, Diyarbakır, Akyaka/Muğla, Edirne and Dersim.
We came together with journalists, students from faculty of communication, academics, members of rights organizations working on women and LGBTI subjects.
Banning of German Film Days and all LGBTI events in Ankara, and our workshop not being able to be held tell us that during this 10 days, the “problem” is LGBTI.
I am looking at the bans of the previous month.
Van Governorship has laid permission down as the condition for closed and open meetings, and banned setting up tent, sit-in protest and opening stands. Edirne Governorship banned all sorts of statements, rallies, marches, petitions and stands within the 4 kilometer square radius of Type F High Security Closed Penal Institution where Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) imprisoned Co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş.
Mersin Governorship has banned an event of Anti-Nuclear Platform. İstanbul Maltepe sub-Governorship found 100th anniversary events of the October Revolution inconvenient. Urfa Governorship banned all sorts of rallies and demonstrations for a month.
Even though I will not list the endless curfews, let me share the latest curfew here. Diyarbakır Governorship declared curfew today (November 24) due to an operation to be launched in Silvan district as of 6 a.m. Time of the end of the curfew is not announced.
A final headline: Valilikler göreve, ahlaksızlığı durdurun! (Step in governors, put an end to this perverseness!) [Ahlaksızlık generally means "immorality" in Turkish, however, the news reports mentioned above use this word to refer to LGBTI community as perverted].
The newspaper in this report announces that the German LGBTI Film Days would be held in nine cities, and urges the governors of these nine cities to ban the event. However, if you browse the Internet, you cannot find anything related “media sensitivity” or “citizen sensitivity”.
It is significant that we were put in a position in which we couldn’t hold the workshop. It is even more significant that a campaign was launched through Kaos GL, and top of it, it is much more significant of Ankara Governorship banning German LGBTI Film Days and all LGBTI events.
Us not being able to hold the workshop wasn’t seen as a news subject for the journalism unions and associations. And here the question is: was the LGBTI ban only the issue of LGBTI organizations?
About the project
"Gender Based Journalism Guidebook and Library Project" is being supported by the European Union European Tool for Democracy and Human Rights (DİHAA) Fund.
The project that will last two years aims to discuss the ways for transformation of discourses and practices of mainstream media's dominant prejudice towards gender.
In the first year, journalists and representatives from women and LGBTI organizations came together in journalism workshops that were organized in İstanbul, Mersin, Bursa, İzmir, Eskişehir, Trabzon, Diyarbakır, Akyaka, Edirne and Dersim and discussed the issues of male-dominated journalism practice and the ways to deal with these.
The second year will continue with regional workshops and round-table discussions. A gender based journalism guidebook and online library will be formed via the collective work that will emerge from deliberations of workshop content that is to be formed by monitoring of newspaper and TV coverage.
Finally, a Gender Based Journalism Conference will be organized as part of the project.
* Nadire Mater
Journalist Mater is the IPS Communication Foundation Executive Board Chair and project advisor for the Independent Communication Network (BİA).
* The Independent Communication Network is the centre piece of the IPS Communication Foundation. BİA is an ongoing project trying to accomplish the aim of strengthening the "independent media" by four main activity areas. Even though our news site is well-known in Turkey and even more widely known internationally, BİA targets to change the entire communication process beyond its daily news production. (NM/TK)
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