Monday, June 17, 2013

Turkey's ‘woman in red’, global protest and the Pacific media

An interview with David Robie on the Pacific at the Protest and Media conference in London. Video report by Sumy Sadurni

'The woman in red'. Photo: Clip from video
THE SO-CALLED “woman in red” became a reluctant icon of a people’s revolt in Turkey this month.

Ceyola Sungur, an academic at Istanbul’s Technical University, was projected into instant global fame because of media images of her being blasted at point blank-range with pepper spray by security police. 

Dressed in a red summer dress, the unarmed and defenceless woman’s defiance in the face of state assaults on protesters demonstrating over plans to remove the city’s central Gezi Park adjoining Taksim Square to make way for mega property development has become an iconic symbol of resistance.

Violence against journalists has been mounting and Turkish police have arrested dozens in a series of nation-wide raids in the latest crackdown.

“There are a lot of people who were at the park and they were also tear-gassed,” the uncomfortable heroine told Turkey’s TV24. “There’s no difference between them and me.”

While the protests raged on amid concerns among many Turkish women that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans a major roll back of women’s rights, Turkish issues were among the many being explored at an international “protest and media” conference in London, jointly organised by the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) and the British Journalism Review.

Researchers Ekmel Gecer and Adem Yesilyurt spoke about the Turkish media and censorship – “consecrating the ideology or voicing the dissident?” and the news representation of the Uludere/Roboski massacre of 34 Kurdish civilians – mostly teenagers - near the Turkish-Iraq border in December 2011. 

University of Westminster student journalist team interview
the BBC's Lisette Johnston. Photo: David Robie
Arab Spring case studies also featured strongly at the conference with senior reporter Lisette Johnston of BBC World News speaking on her research about the role of social media and ICT in helping news outlets interact with internet activists in Syria, and speakers on Al Jazeera and social media in the Egyptian uprising, the Libyan uprising – a “mirage in the desert”, post-revolution Tunisia, and online news distribution in Iran after 2009.

Basque and Catalonian struggles in Spain, global “Occupy” protests and social media, Hungary’s “Milla” movement, ecological community media in France, the Chilean student movement, tweeting the Russian protests, Indonesian labour, autonomous women’s groups in China, the Mtwara protest in Tanzania, Facebook spoiling the anti-Berlusconi protest in Italy, poverty as crime in post-apartheid discourse in South Africa, rape and social mobilisation in India, and data journalism in the London riots of 2011 papers were also featured.

David Robie discusses the Pacific Media Watch project,
founded when Tongan publisher Kalafi Moala was unjustly
imprisoned over contempt of Parliament in 1996.
Photo: University of Westminster media team
Only two papers were included in the conference line-up from the Antipodes – AUT University’s Pacific Media Centre director Professor David Robie presented a case study on Pacific Media Watch and press freedom protest in Oceania 1996-2013 while the University of Canberra’s Michelle Breen spoke on the Australian government’s mediated dismissal of Aboriginal opposition to the Northern Territory Emergency Response 2007.

Keynote speakers were Professor Nick Couldry, director of Goldsmith’s Centre for the Study of Global Media and Democracy, with an address on digital media and the production of collectivity, and Professor W. Lance Bennett of the University of Washington, who spoke on “The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Organisation of Contemporary Protest,” the title of his recent book.

The journalists and activists panel at the Protest and media
conference, London. Photo: David Robie
A lively debate on activists and journalists included BBC Newsnight editor Paul Mason, author of  Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions; Spyros Limneos of the Occupy LSX Press Team; and Stop The War Coalition's Chris Nineham, author of The People v. Tony Blair: Politics, the Media and the Anti-War Movement. The panel was chaired by Professor Anastasia Kavada of the University of Westminster.

Robin Lustig, winner of the 2013 British Journalism
award. Image: David Robie
The conference concluded with the annual presentation of British Journalism Review’s Charles Wheeler Award for Outstanding Contributions to Broadcast Journalism. The winner this year was Robin Lustig, reporter and former presenter of BBC Radio 4’s The World Tonight, who declared during his acceptance speech: “We still need reporters as much as we ever did. To dig, to question, to challenge. To dig, to discover, to reveal.”

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