The Turkish government’s harsh response to demonstrators in Istanbul has spurred large-scale anti-government protests across Turkey and a subsequent digital DIY PR movement by concerned Turks and others to make sure the world knows what’s happening.
The protests, which began as a sit-in to stop the removal of trees to make room for a mall in a popular Istanbul park, has grown into a demonstration against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government. Turks hoping to spread the story of what’s happening in their country as widely as possible have taken to social media to share images from the protests. Although most of the images are accurate, some are old and misleading, creating a government narrative that social media has manipulated the public’s perception of what’s really going on.
One popular Tumblr post filled with images purportedly from the protests has racked up 123,285 notes in a day. “The revolution will not be televised,” it reads. “You can help by tagging the following news outlets on Twitter.”
Concerned digital citizens responded with reblogs, tagged tweets and emails to make sure the media was covering Turkey.
Turkey is asking where are u? Why dont you report the brutal turkish police violence? @nytimes @AFP @BBCWorld @CNN @reuters #direngeziparkÄ±
The Turkish media have been silenced by the government. Please share @bbc @cnn @nytimes â€
Although the protests have been covered by major news outlets, the message being spread on social media seems to be that they’re being ignored by both Turkish and international media. One popular image shows CNN International covering the unrest while CNN Türk plays b-roll of penguins.
CNN Türk did not respond to questions about their coverage, but a streaming video from the channel revealed that while their protest coverage has not been wall-to-wall (they aired a segment on dolphins Saturday afternoon, for example), the demonstrations aren’t being ignored. But that’s not a message likely to go viral.
A number of misleading photos have been circulated and debunked since the protests began. A photo purporting to be of protesters marching across a bridge that was widely shared on Twitter and Reddit was soon discovered to be an image from a marathon in 2012.
This photo was immediately called out for not being from Turkey at all.
Various images alleging to show “blood in the streets” have also been shared, but such graphic compelling images only show up on activist Facebook pages and blogs, not on any wire image searches of the protests.
Although misleading photos can create a more viral message and broader support for demonstrators in Turkey, one Reddit user commenting on the misleading bridge photo pointed out they were ultimately unhelpful, fueling a government narrative the protests were based on lies.
The front page of Türkiye Newspaper in Istanbul mentioned Twitter Sunday, saying “Tweets provoke people.”
And the prime minister mentioned it too.
Turkish PM bluntly targets social media, especially Twitter and calls it trouble maker. #occopygezi
But the frantic way in which Turks are flooding the Internet with pleas to cover their protest can be better understood in light of a report released by the Committee to Protect Journalists showing that Turkey jailed the most journalists in 2012 — more than Iran or China.