On Tuesday 11 June 2013, the Greek government announced its decision to shut down the country’s public broadcaster ERT and proceeded with taking all ERT television and radio channels off the air.
This came as a public consultation is under way to determine the terms under which a network provider will be selected to complete the country’s transition to digital television.
Radiobubble interviewed on Friday 14 June 2013 ERT senior technician Nikos Michalitsis, whose analysis of the call for expressions of interest for digital network providers bears ominous signs for the future of press freedom in Greece. We are posting the interview above.
On 18th June in the European Parliament, MEPs Paweł Zalewski and Amelia Andersdotter will host a joint conference on “Internet and Social Media as Tools for Freedom”. The event aims at presenting the role of the internet and social media in building civil society and fighting with oppression.
The conference will focus on the recent events in Turkey, the revolution in Tunisia that was part of the Arab Spring, and mass protests against ACTA in Poland. All of these events have one thing in common – their participants, unhappy with their governments actions decided to act and used the internet to organize themselves.
Idea of using technical tools in spreading ideas is not new. Internet is just the latest, more complex and efficient way of transmitting information and providing access to conversation and thus creating shared awareness. What most important is the internet and social media ability to serve as a space for discussion because this is how civil society and political opinions are formed. This helps to strengthen public sphere, gives more opportunities to engage in public speech and enables to undertake collective actions. Also the coordination role of social media cannot be overestimated.
Using Twitter and Facebook the protesters can organize in a very easy way that does not require any formal organizations, helps to save time, and does not involve big funds.
The basic truth is that communicative freedom is good for political freedom. And the internet provides means to support civil society and the public sphere which will cause change in a long run.
18 June 2013 16:00-18:00 European Parliament, Room ASP A5G3
16:00-16:15 Opening remarks by MEP Paweł Zalewski
16:15-17:30 Panel discussion
Lina Ben Mhenni (blogger Tunisian Girl)
Gürkan Özturan (blogger from Turkey)
Amelia Andersdotter MEP
Katarzyna Szymielewicz (President od Panoptykon Foundation)
Jarosław Lipszyc (President of Nowoczesna Polska Foundation)
Paweł Zalewski MEP
17:30-17:50 Q&A session
17:50-18:00 Conclusion – Paweł Zalewski MEP
18:00-18:30 opening of the exhibition „From samizdat to Internet”
People light candles for the victims of the protests at Taksim square, in Istanbul, early Saturday, June 15, 2013.
A letter from a friend:
Since these protests started, in addition to a political movement, I see and even deeply feel in them an amazing social revolution.
Due to its key geographical location, for centuries Turkey has been home to all types of religions and ethnic groups; in fact for centuries our true richness has been generated from these differences.
Any king, sultan or politician who has known how to embrace the differences of this country and put them in the front row has been successful and left a mark in history.
This time, since 2002 to be exact, our differences have been reflected but in a manipulated way and under the cover of democracy we have been selected and divided: the covered versus the uncovered, the Muslims versus the non-Muslims, the 50% and the others have been categorized and with time, while walking in the streets, the covered ladies have started staring at me with strange eyes and I don’t really know why but I do the same.
Since May 31st, 2013, Turkish people have succeeded in gathering all our differences in an amazing harmony in one single point: the Gezi Park. I am lucky enough to witness this with my own eyes and heart again and again in an incredible way … Tolerance, love, respect, embracing all the religions, avoiding looking askance at people having different sexual preferences, smiling, peace … all of these have been suddenly caught in one interesting “momentum” all together. In such a fast way that we have not really fully understood what is deeply happening but we are just truly feeling it and getting together for days. We simply started acting with our true Turkish hearts!
It is exactly for this reason that back from work, I leave aside my Chanel bag and high heels for my backpack to go straight to Taksim Square.
And if I forget my gas mask I don’t mind at all and go with full confidence because I know that one of my sisters/brothers/friends I don’t know yet will help me out.
Yes, we are there to support this movement and to protect our rights, but I also walk and wander freely around Taksim by inhaling, with the utmost pleasure, the gas bombs to catch this very special momentum. And from now on, when I take a taxi the drivers are smiling and ask me how I am or when I walk in Istanbul I am happy to see in every corner “chapullers” and we warmly smile to each other.
Fear and anger have been swapped for tolerance and respect, making us what we are deeply and what has made us for centuries: TURKS.
My deep thanks to all friends who did or did not come to Taksim, ones following us from far, the people giving their support in any manner, the ones praying, the ones inhaling or not inhaling these bloody gas bombs, the ones injured for each and all of us, to my TURKEY standing up for and getting its rights!
Written by Figen Ayan
This is what was happening in Gezi Park before the rioting police brutally raided the park:
Because I Love This Park
The Biggest Civil Uprising in the History of Turkey
Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul
Here is a nightly report on the events in Turkey for 16-6-13:
Starting with the informatory talks between the government and the council of Taksim Solidarity (to save Gezi Park), the tense situation in Turkey had cooled down for a short period of time. Before the meeting took place, an AKP adviser declared that they wanted to invite several people from TS, but there were none who are Sunni Muslim and support a rightist ideology. Two witnesses had confirmed that Erdogan yelled and shouted at TS members during the meeting and did not care to listen to their demands. The demands were clear – Gezi would be saved from destruction, all those detained across the country for supporting Gezi would be released without further investigation, and there would be no attacks on peaceful protesters. Erdogan shunned these demands, stating that he had the support of voters behind him, but eventually only agreed to let a court decide whether the park remains a park; and even then, depending on the court decision they may take it to a plebiscite in Istanbul.
The TS council declared that the protests for Gezi Park should be ended; however most people protesting by now have been protesting the arbitrary police violence, the brutal crackdown on peaceful protesters, and the crimes committed by the riot police from excessive use of gas, chemicals, beatings on the streets as well as arbitrary arrests. The policing of civilians has come to the point of arbitrary search and arrest of individuals simply walking on the streets – several undercover policemen jumping on one person, grabbing bags and searching everywhere without a warrant or order papers.
When the Governor of Istanbul tried to soften the tone of interventions by making a public declaration that he has the support of the chief of police and the regional military commander, he stated that no peaceful protester is being touched, but that there are a few provocateurs (who turned out to be undercover policemen). The unnecessary show of force with the police and soldiers against civilians gave a clear vision of what the government’s decision would be, yet everyone expected – or hoped – that violence would stop and peaceful protests would continue to express the wish for a guarantee of democratic rights. The Governor also stated that no one’s life can be protected any longer if they insist on staying in the park and addressed mothers: “Come fetch your kids from the park, they are in danger.”
Mothers responded to this call and thousands came to protect their kids from police violence, building a peace chain around police. Under protection of their mothers, the “kids” continued with their peaceful protests through a piano concert, which later joined in with a philharmonic orchestra concert in Taksim Square. The very same piano would get confiscated as evidence for terrorist activities later on.
While everyone expected a cooling down and a call for restraint from the government, still hoping for a democratic process, AKP sent out riot police, tons of smoke and teargas, blast bombs, rubber bullets and many rifles, water cannons (with the addition of chemicals in the liquid), panzers, and this time military forces. When the attacks began on Gezi Park, so did nationwide protests against AKP’s tyranny. While all roads were blocked, protesters started a peace march towards Taksim, hoping to make a clear statement to the security forces that they are peaceful. Among them was even a totally naked man – to prove that he is “unarmed,” since the police claim everyone they shoot are armed terrorists.
The intervention started unannounced with blast bombs shot into the middle of the crowds by police, along with many gas bombs to limit protesters’ vision and breathing. When people tried to stop the panicking crowds, among whom were the disabled, old people and very little kids (as this is a park and on Saturday afternoon everyone was there), police started shooting gas bombs and blast bombs at the people. Thousands tried to take refuge in the Divan Hotel, a popular refuge since the first day of protests which was used as a hospital to treat the wounded. Later on police raided the hotel and gassed the rooms, detaining hundreds.
In other areas similar things happened and the military was called in to help as the police were ineffective against so many civilians. When soldiers joined in with the police to stop the peaceful protesters, people were still gathering in crowds across the country. The government declared that all the millions of people who support any protest against AKP are terrorists and will be treated as such. In the meantime, doctors who were on voluntary duty to treat the wounded were detained, journalists were not allowed in Taksim Square, and lawyers who represent any arrested protester were kept in custody.
As the world’s eyes were on the excessive force unleashed onto peaceful protesters, the Turkish media still kept silent, if not propagandizing for the government. The next day’s newspaper headlines focused on “how peaceful the police have been while kindly asking people to leave, until they had to intervene when protesters started shooting policemen.”
The media’s attitude is like that of a country under military rule; indeed this may be a coup organized by AKP with police and military support. Several journalists and editors who dared to write about the events were openly “warned” by the government to stop writing and issue an apology in order to prevent future “consequences.” After all the newspapers ran the same headlines last week, this time Taraf – a prominent civilian newspaper always having an anti-militarist focus – was banned from publishing any further news of the Turkish secret service gathering information on tens of thousands of social-media users and filing them to hand over to the government when protests are done.
As threats against social-media users continue to emerge from AKP officials, there is a new law being drafted to criminalize any support of an opposition view of the government on the social media and imprison the “offender.” Hundreds of detainees are missing. Amnesty International declared that they want to know where were all those people taken.
PM Erdogan is holding a major rally in Istanbul today, for which the government supplied planes and buses to bring millions of AKP members and policemen from across country, and has one clear message: “The police are using water cannons, gas bombs… but in some countries they also use bullets. If protests do not end, my security forces know how to get rid of them.”
Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul
Here is a nightly report on the events in Turkey for 13-6-13:
As one walks from Harbiye towards Taksim, the crowds get thicker and thicker. When strolling the streets, from the sides you see people in groups of dozens with their gasmasks, goggles, helmets, and different flags in many colors. In the middle of this colorful opposition there are dozens of thinner-addicts that all shout the same thing: “Don’t go to Taksim, you will get gassed! You are going to your certain death! Stay away from Gezi, stay home be safe!” Normally it is common to see one or two of these addicts around the streets, and they never shout out loud like that – let alone shouting the same thing. In hundreds of meters, passing by these guys the crowds get even thicker, with people selling masks and helmets by the side of the road. Once you reach to the park and enter “Taksim Commune,” you realize the great feeling of solidarity, hearing the songs of thousands of people, and unified resistance of all colors.
While the Resistance Park is very peaceful and festive with all the high spirits of solidarity, in the meantime a delegation supposedly representing the Gezi Park – but who in fact have almost nothing to do with the park or occupation movement – assembled to meet with PM Erdogan. Among them were names the general public associates with nationalist propaganda or apolitical fashion. These “representatives” who had nothing to do with the park or resistance against police brutality stated their opinion on events, and in the end the government officials suggested that there should be a referendum on whether Istanbulites want a park or an artillery barracks and shopping mall.
About the referendum, most of the protesters questioning the government’s sincerity in resolving the park issues, let alone all the crimes against civilians committed throughout the last few weeks. They reminded people that it was Erdogan himself who suggested that human rights and social liberties can never be put on referendum, in 2009 at an AKP Rally. The court decision is clear: Gezi Park cannot be demolished. But the government dictates that popular-vote support for the governing party gives them enough legitimacy to disregard the court’s decision. The protesters remain on the side of rule of law and want to see it prevail.
In the international arena as world leaders, foreign governments, supra- and international organizations are condemning the infringement of basic human rights and the excessive use of force against peaceful protesters, the government declared that they would not recognize the EU Parliament’s declarations as legitimate. The Turkish EU minister even went so far as to suggest that the EU is actually bringing itself into shade by falling into the trap of an international conspiracy to topple the Turkish economic miracle. Still, looking at events from an economic angle, the Turkish government is very focused on conspiracy theories and shows signs of fear.
The government-leaning media keep exaggerating the invented claims made by AKP members that religious people are being attacked by protesters, while devout Muslim organizations condemn these claims as they say these reports simply do not reflect reality. While turbaned girls use social media to deliver the message that they are fine and safe among all other groups, and everyone keeps an open mind towards all others, it is only a certain group of AKP fans that do not get the message.
Already there are a few people resigning from the governing party, and members cancelling their memberships. There are also some people who are family members of AKP deputies, who – without revealing their names – support protesters and block the roads in front of police buses.
The issue has of course gone well beyond Gezi Park now and protesters, while denying any party affiliation, demand a new political culture free of hatred, lies, provocative leaders and demagogues in the name of Turkey’s future. The constitutional debates that have been blocked by all parties seem to be an urgent necessity today; perhaps there could be one like the Icelandic people are having over their constitution.
It is obvious now that people do not want any part of a government official would say, as Erdogan said on April 23rd to the kid who assumed the PM’s duties for one day: “Now that you are the Prime Minister you can slaughter and hang whomever you wish.” This movement is definitely bringing more tolerance into mainstream culture in Turkey, which has been divided by many issues throughout decades due to politicians’ intrigues. Now that they have discovered the potential of the social movement, the defense of the park can lead to a truly democratic transformation of the country, if it does not get interrupted.
However, while the heartbeat on the streets reveals hopeful echoes for future, the higher authority for TV and radio broadcasts declared that four TV stations will be heavily fined, and one – Hayat TV – will be banned from broadcast for discussing the police violence against civilians. While traditional media platforms are already under severe pressure to stay in line with the government’s perspective, now the social media law in the penal code seems to be threatening the future of freedom of speech, the right to information and the basic right to communicate freely. Against all odds and discouragements from the government, the humanist protesters still keep up their passive resistance in peace and solidarity.
Since June 11, Greece has become a scandalous “cultural exception” in Europe: The country no longer has public radio and television.
The Greeks, already brought to their knees by the financial crisis, are stunned by the brutal suddenness of the measure, which reminds them of the period when they lived under a dictatorship, and are mobilizing in large numbers.
This decision is in direct contradiction with the European treaties, which hold that the existence of a public broadcasting service is a determining criterion of the health of democracy in a country. The shutdown is one more step in the process of dismantling of a country under the austerity plans imposed by the EU and the Troika.
In solidarity with the Greek people, Mediapart is organizing an event on Tuesday, June 18 at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris. Artists, journalist, and Greek and French intellectuals will be there to speak and to defend the necessity for a public broadcasting service that is independent of political or other powers.
On this occasion, Edwy Plenel, in the name of Mediapart, will issue a citizens’ appeal in the name of the Europe that stands for culture and freedom of information.
The complete, detailed program will be sent out on by Monday, June 17. The event is free and open to the public.
Greek unions organized a 24 hour strike in support of ERT – Photo by Giorgos Panagakis
“No Signal.” That was the last message to be broadcast on June 11 at 11:00 PM (local time) by the Greek public broadcasting network ERT. Broadcasting has ended. The radical – and unprecedented – measure was taken without forewarning just as the leaders of Greece’s “Troika” creditors (EU-ECB-IMF) are in Athens.
Public broadcasting belongs to the many government entities that were to be restructured or merged under the Memorandum of Understanding between Greece and its lenders. According to the unions, in closing ERT, the government is meeting the objective imposed on it by Greece’s creditors – eliminating 2,000 public-sector jobs by the end of June – with one stroke of the pen. It is justifying its decision by citing low ratings for the public radio stations and television channels, and also their lack of financial resources, in particular from advertising.
The government did say that the public entity would re-open someday in another form, with a drastically reduced workforce. Government spokesman Simos Kédikoglou revealed the details of a proposed law on the creation of a “new Greek radio, Internet, and television” to be called Nerit S.A. and which would begin operation by the end of August, with 1,200 employees. In the meantime, the current workforce of 2,656 will receive compensation and will be allowed to apply for jobs with the new company.
“They’re saying they’ll re-open in September. But in Greece, nothing’s more permanent than ‘temporary’,” ERT radio General Manager Dimitris Papadimitriou observed.
An explosive economic measure
The unions have called on Greeks to take to the streets to protest the shutdown. The protest is supported by certain personalities in Greek public life who are dependent on Greece’s public broadcasting – starting with Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens, Primate of the Greek Church, who immediately joined the movement along with the majority of the priests. “It has to be understood that only public television and radio broadcast the Mass on Sunday morning, every day of Holy Week, the week before Easter, at Christmas and on August 15 (the feast of the Dormition or Assumption). It provided hope and comfort for those among the faithful who are unable to go to church, as well as to Greeks living abroad. Remember that there are as many Greeks abroad as in Greece itself, and the Mass broadcast was a little piece of Greece for them,” the Archbishop said.
Orthodox Catholicism is the state religion in Greece, and 90% of the country’s population, according to official figures, is Orthodox. Religious broadcasts are carried on all four public channels, including the international one.
Greeks in Venezuela, the USA, and Japan called with messages of support for the personnel. One of them said on the air, just before programming was shut down, that the national public network was the only way for him not to forget the language of his native country and be able to observe religious celebrations in his home.
Several hundred persons were still assembled late Wednesday afternoon in front of ERT’s headquarters in Athens’s northeastern suburbs. A solidarity concert was planned for Wednesday evening.
Sophie Rosenzweig / ARTE Journal
Translated by SnakeArbusto
Status of Greek public broadcasting:
ERT in figuresIts history goes back to the 1950s. With 35 broadcasting locations, ERT reaches the most remote corners of the Greek Aegean islands and employs nearly 2,700 persons, including some 680 journalists and 200 musicians and singers.ERT, via its international Greek-language radio frequency and the ERT World channel, provides a vital link to a country whose language is spoken by more than seven million diaspora Greeks scattered around the world from Egypt to Australia and including the United States.
Edition spéciale : ARTE Journal diffusé en grec:
ERT: On the Edge:
Thousands of Greek showing solidarity outside the ERT building in Athens:
A poster depicting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that has been pasted by demonstrators on Taksim Square in Istanbul
Submitted by Turkish political analyst / blogger, Gürkan Özturan, from Istanbul
Here is a nightly report on the events in Turkey for 12-6-13:
Another day and night of excessive police force, tons of gas of many types, TOMAs, panzers and thousands of batons mark a historic and unforgettably dark day in history for Taksim and for Turkey. Although Governor Mutlu had declared that there would be no intervention and that the lives of those in and around Gezi Park are under the police’s responsibility and will be safeguarded, there came a wave of attacks and raids against the protesters. While the peaceful protests were continuing, the Governor stated that the square needed cleaning and sent out expedition teams for yet another dawn operation. As day broke, all TV channels broadcasted live how “a few protesters were throwing Molotov cocktails at police while barricades were being lifted.” However, the people throwing Molotovs were in fact undercover policemen, which was proven later by their guns and transmitters.
After the dawn operation, when police removed the banners and flags belonging to leftist groups, thousands of white-collar people marched to Taksim during their lunch break to show support. When they had gone back to their offices, police attacks continued and grew in focus. Surrounding the square from all sides and applying a military strategy of an invasion force, the army of riot police charged the protesters. While the men in uniform acted like that, their compatriots under cover were slightly more civilized. They applied arbitrary violence and body searches as well as searches of private items. Several people got into quarrels with civilian-police which resulted in the police showing more violent reactions and then leaving.
During the night, Turkish people turned to CNN International to get their news from CNN’s war reporter; while Turkish media insisted on showing scenes with the title: “Violent protesters attack police!” When government officials and AKP advisor Ibrahim Kalin were asked about the events, they tried to give completely unrelated answers, most of which were not even true. While these explanations were being given, at the same time Istanbul’s Governor wanted to come on live TV and declare his gratitude to those who stayed in Gezi Park as police took over Taksim square. His words however should be heard as something much worse, much deeper. His words were “Come pick up your son from the park, we can not guarantee their lives any more!”
The PM’s remarks on the issues were clear; “Be an avenger of your hatred, a follower of your fury… Never forget” he told his supporters, while the protesters receive the message very well for their cause, swearing never to forget this brutal crackdown on unarmed peaceful civilians. It is obvious now that all promises given by the government officials failed to become reality. The working conditions of millions of workers and laborers, unemployed youth, the shattered dreams of a more liberal and democratic Turkey, all contributing to the protests, have now turned into a movement that will leave its mark on the understanding of current politics.
Amnesty International called for urgent global action by all activists in every city in the world, and other international humanitarian organizations show solidarity. The AKP government would be happy if pressure from the with international community were limited to NGOs and humanitarian organizations. But even the UN’s calling on Turkey to respect the rights of the protesters, as it is not binding, may not affect the PM’s decisions at all.
While looking at the events with watery eyes due to the extreme amount of peppery tear gas in the air, one cannot but wonder if the remark made by a CNN viewer may not reflect reality: “Europe now has a second Hitler!”