One FaceTime video foiled the Turkish coup attempt
By Zan Azlee
In any attempted coup, one of the most important things that needs to be done is to gain control of the media, be it the party that is attempting the coup or the one defending against it.
That’s why the first targets when a coup happens are the broadcast networks such as radio and television. Then of course, it would be the newspapers and what not.
And if we look at the case of the attempted coup in Turkey over the weekend, television stations (eg: CNN Turk) were shut down within minutes of the coup being announced.
The main objective of this is to give the perception that the incumbent government no longer holds any power or jurisdiction in the country and that new authority is in place.
It needs to be fast and complete so that there won’t be any interjection that can be done by the public or anyone else and for the rest of the media world to just report that it has happened.
So the faction of the military that were executing the coup did that step right. Turkey has seen at least two military coups before this. So they should be able to benefit from experience.
But what they forgot was that the Internet plays a huge role as well and it was interesting for me to see how the entire effort to take over the government was just put to an abrupt halt.
The military (or just a faction) who undertook the coup may have shut down all the television stations but it definitely did not manage to give a perception that they were in control.
All it took was a FaceTime video by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan calling for all those who oppose the coup to take to the streets and show that the people are in power.
And this they did, which we clearly saw in all the media reports over the weekend. The people (and the police) took to the streets and showed that they didn’t want a military coup.
This is funny to me seeing that Erdogan’s administration was highly critical of the use of the Internet and social media. In fact, they applied all kinds of pressure and censorship to control it.
Before the coup attempt, Internet and social media use in Turkey was monitored very closely. Certain websites that were considered critical to the establishment were blocked.
There was even talk that the government wanted to stop or limit access to different social media platforms. Of course, this was not received well by many.
Actually, Turkey isn’t known for it’s free and open media. The authorities are known to control the media tightly. Journalists have been jailed and some have even seeked asylum elsewhere.
There were regular protests and demonstrations against Erdogan, who is known to be Islamist and conservative, throughout his years in power.
Many of these even turned violent with protesters being killed and injured. I even went to Istanbul during the height of these protests in 2013 to report what was happening.
Of course, now that Erdogan has regained full control of the country, he is purging the system of all the people who were involved in the coup attempt.
Around 6,000 people have been arrested, including high-ranking judges, military personnel and many more. And it looks like that number is just going to increase.
But I wonder, will this actually open Erdogan’s eyes to the importance of having a free media (social included)?