Turkey’s Press Ignores Deadly Bombing, Igniting Outrage

In the wake of a deadly bombing, Turkish press praises president's bid to overhaul constitution

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan leaves the police headquaters in his car after a ceremony for police officers who died in Saturday's blasts, in Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan - RTX2UIJT — REUTERS
Dec 11, 2016 at 10:59 AM ET

On a national day of mourning following twin blasts in a soccer stadium in central Istanbul, a weakened Turkish press spurred outrage by focusing their coverage on President Erdogan’s plan to consolidate power.

More than 22,000 tweets appeared under #Damn_you_and_your_presidency on Sunday morning, according to Vocativ’s analysis, a hashtag that cropped up to criticize Erdogan.

“People are dying in the dozens. We lost 29 people last night and the pro-Erdogan media is talking about his presidency instead,” wrote one user in Turkish.

The Sabah Daily newspaper splashed a presidential-looking photo of Erdogan on its front page Sunday morning under the headline, “The nation is ready to meet their president.”

Over the past year, the Turkish government has carried out a harsh crackdown on the press, shuttering at least 150 newspapers and jailing 120 journalists without court hearings. As a result, the vast majority of those that have survived have become pro-Erdogan. Many papers on Sunday morning marginalized or completely neglected to mention the Saturday night attack.

Over the last five years, the Turkish government has issued more than 150 gag orders following accusations of government corruption or incidents of terrorism. Erdogan has repeatedly invoked emergency laws to block power Facebook and Twitter, such as in late July only an hour after an attack on the Istanbul Ataturk airport which the government said was carried out by ISIS affiliates.

If the draft legislation is passed in the upcoming spring referendum, it will allow Erdogan consolidate his power by dismantling the country’s mechanism for a separation of powers. It will also enable him to add another two five-year terms to his already lengthy presidency, potentially keeping him in power until 2029.

The Kurdish Freedom Falcons militant group — a splinter group of the Kurdish PKK group that has clashed with security forces in a decades-long bid for Kurdish autonomy in Turkey — took responsibility for the Dec. 10 bombings. They belong to the ethnic Kurdish minority, who are connected to other Kurdish communities spread across swaths of territory in Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran, and make up about 20 percent of Turkey’s 75 million population.

The government has vowed to avenge the death of the dozens killed by the attack. Thirteen suspects were detained on Sunday, according to Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.