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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Democracy of the Turkish Press [4]

By Kaya Turan reporting from Rochester, UK

To be taken seriously is the desire of every artist, and in the first three parts to this serial we've seen how the paparazzi is the nemesis to that. The general public read celebrity gossip zines to get the lowdown on their favourite artist, but it is the stories of slip-ups that generate the most press space.

Music artists - or anyone for that matter - don't want us to focus on the egg on their face, but rather the chicken it's come out of - criticising celebrity journos for tarnishing their reputations. Which of course then comes back to the cosmic question of which came first - the chicken or the egg?

The Relationship Between Pap and Celeb

Screencap of reportIronically, the best definition I've come across for this chicken-egg relationship of a forced marriage is in the columns of a faithful member of the anti-Tarkan lobby in the press, Sabah entertainment columnist Şengül Balıksırtı (see left pic).

In her 13 April dated column she quotes Turkish diva Sezen Aksu, who in response to a question from the international press on why her relationship with the media was so limited had this to say:

"I am very ordinary in my everyday life. Relationships in the popular communication media are like duels to me. It's not possible for either side to be 100% truthful with each other. Those who write the news are attracted by the story, but those who are the news want most of all to come out of it unscathed and with their profile raised a little bit more. So with both sides on guard, they waste an immense amount of mental energy in trying to play their cards right.

"But I believe there is nothing comparable to the way the power of emotions or a song sung with feeling can affect you. So that's why, I prefer as a general rule not to waste my energy in that way. You can polish yourself up as much as you want; every heart senses the truth. Or polish up a news story as much as you want, when it is filtered through the conscience, the glitter falls away."

Praise aside for the definition from Turkey's own Edith Piaf - known for her eloquence - the relationship she describes as based on fiercely competing aims is a real one.

As an A-lister in Turkey, Tarkan is news. Should he then expend his energy in a duel that he can have no hope in winning - the reporter will always have the last word - or should he play the game? Arguably, Tarkan doesn't need the exposure, but keeping a long arm between him and the press means that a lot of gossip and rumour can fester unchallenged in between.

In Need of a Good Mediator

We've heard it from Tarkan's lawyer that the reporting of the gutter sections of the press is near criminal. Worse. It is criminal.

It's worthwhile to press home the point that Tarkan still hasn't been charged yet or had a hearing - even though the perception in Turkey and in Europe is one of the artist being a drug user likely to face imprisonment. Reports circulated by reputable Turkish news wires that Tarkan is to be charged and might even face a two-year jail sentence, has been the icing on the cake.

Without a good mediator - despite official sources unofficially laying claim to dismiss suggestions of a jail term - the general public will have interpreted the silence from Tarkan's camp as acceptance of the fact that, at the very least, the Turkish Public Prosecutor's Office has put Tarkan's name down on an indictment for drugs with 16 other suspects.

But again note, neither side, nor legal office, has yet come out with an official statement. The celebrity gossip sections deal in rumour, so we could understand it from them to a point, but surely a reputable Turkish news agency needs to wait for official confirmation before going to press - even if it is true?

In a barrel of apples, it is universally accepted that you will get a few bad ones. Although I don't sign up to there being a widespread conspiracy against Tarkan, it does look like that in this barrel, there are more bad than good.

And although there has been news of support filtering through the media for Tarkan from columnists in the press and from the big names in the Turkish music industry, how much of it has been of the kind actually emphasising the point that people in a democratic legal process are innocent until proven guilty, or at least are given the benefit of the doubt to prove their innocence?

Not many.

And doesn't what hasn't been said, speak volumes in criticism of what has?

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