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düşmanlaştırma simgeleştirme racism enemity Rum essentialism insults gay xenophobia savaş çağrısı savaş söylemi hakaret Insult/Humiliation/Cursing marginalization
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  what is hate speech?  
  Media Watch on Hate Speech Project

In Turkey, we frequently witness the use of biased, prejudiced and discriminatory language in the media. The provocative, racist and discriminatory language used in the news - in particular in headlines and news headings - becomes an instrument that entrenches stereotypes and fuels feelings of hostility and discrimination in society. Despite the fact that there are universal and national principles of journalism and that some media organizations have even issued their own code of ethics, many journalistic end products happen to violate these principles. The use of such language entrenches unrest in society as well as a widespread prejudice against vulnerable groups. Targeted individuals and groups become restless and silent and are forced to renounce their right to participate in social and political life, a sine qua non for democracy. Such provocative and stigmatizing use of language can sometimes result in attacks on the members or gathering places of marginalized and antagonized groups.

At the core of hate speech lie prejudices, racism, xenophobia, partiality, discrimination, sexism and homophobia. Factors such as cultural identities as well as group characteristics have an impact on the use of hate speech; yet certain circumstances such as rising nationalism or intolerance towards what is different further increases hate speech as well as its impact.

Due to various reasons, Turkey has been witnessing polarization between various segments of society; thus intolerance towards the different, the “other” is becoming more and more widespread. Conflicts in Southeast Anatolia ongoing for years, the sudden demographic change in Turkey caused by forced displacement of people due to the conflict, as well as the economic, social and cultural conflicts have all played a role in the escalation of tension between communities. On the other hand, democratization efforts such as the initiatives in minority rights and liberal economy as well as the way the Cyprus Question debate is perceived and portrayed as “plots on Turkey by foreign powers” also nurture polarization and enmity. Furthermore, developments in the Middle East, discussions around the Kurdish and Armenian Questions, and the peace process currently on the agenda lead to individuals and institutions who have suggestions for solution to be targeted and certain ethnic groups to be portrayed as enemies. Finally, the way Taksim Gezi Park events were covered in the media was important as it showed how the media can foster polarization in society.

Hence, the manifestation of hostile perceptions and attitudes towards different groups and individuals, who are known or assumed to be members of such groups, has become an important and ever-growing problem in Turkey. Even opinion leaders such as government officials, opposition leaders and public servants have no qualms when it comes to using such racist and discriminating language. As is well-known, the claim of government officials that the Taksim Gezi Park events are organized by “foreign agents” and the discourse of “interest lobby” resulted in certain groups, the Jewish identity being the first among them, to be targeted. Recently, Prof. Ahmet Atan, the head of the Arts Department at Yıldız Technical University uttered the following words, “If you are a Jew, Armenian or Greek, I can understand you taking an active role in the Gezi protests. Please search and find out who your ancestors are”. With these racist statements, he portrayed Jewish, Armenian and Greek identities as enemies whose goal is to harm Turkey. Such statements were also adopted by various publications.

Media, often dubbed as the fourth estate, is one of the most effective cultural transmitters. Therefore, as much as it has the power to highlight diversity and difference, it can also be extremely instrumental and guiding in terms of spreading or banalizing a conflict. If the media behaves irresponsible or careless, it can very easily trigger, nurture and strengthen racism and hatred between people, and worst of all, it can legitimize and justify such attitudes. For many years, the media in Turkey has been one of the active sources of nationalistic and discriminatory discourse. Such a journalism practice substantially contributed to the polarization in society. When we look into some of the hate crimes that took place in recent years, it becomes easier to understand the impact of the media. Yasin Hayal, who is on trial as the instigator of the Hrant Dink murder, said in his statement that, “He did not know Hrant Dink personally, but had read from newspapers that he was an enemy of the Turks." The person who is accused of attacking the priest of the Church of St. Sophia in Izmir in December 2007 stated that he did the attack to become a hero like Ogün Samast.

One of the main objectives of the Hrant Dink Foundation, founded after the murder of Hrant Dink for the purpose of carrying on his dreams, ideals and struggle, is to contribute to ending the polarization and enmity in society.

 
     
This project is funded by Freidrich Neumann Stiftung, Global Dialogue and MYMEDIA/Niras. The materials that are published do not necessarily reflect the views of the funders.       funded
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