Turkish government and media support for Paris protesters brings backlash over actions in Turkey
Anti-government protests and the police’s response in France have sparked a new debate in Turkey, where mass protests in various cities against Erdogan government were harshly suppressed by Turkish police in 2013.
The protesters, known for wearing the “yellow vests” when protesting against high living costs, clashed with French riot police in Paris on Saturday.
The “yellow vests”, who are opposed to French President Emmanuel Macron’s liberal economic reforms, hurled projectiles, torched cars and vandalized shops on the 24th day of unrest in the country. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the demonstrators.
After Paris last week witnessed the worst riots since the 1968 student riots, the French government canceled a scheduled rise in taxes on petrol and diesel in a bid to douse the anger of the protesters.
However, this move was not enough as the protests of the “yellow vests” have moved on from simply being a matter of petrol hike to a much broader anti-Macron rebellion.
Christophe Castaner, Interior Minister of France, declared that about 120 demonstrators and nearly 20 police officers injured during the nationwide protest. “Nearly 1,000 people arrested” he said after declaring that the situation was then under control.
Jumping on the bandwagon
As France battles to deal with the crisis, Turkish government institutions and media have gleefully jumped on the bandwagon, following the crisis and denouncing the French government’s response.
State broadcaster TRT as well as media outlets that support Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have given the events mountains of air time and coverage.
Erdogan himself, who has long been harshly criticized by Western democracies for violating basic human rights in his country, did not hesitate to criticize European leaders over human rights.
He referred the incidents to as “chaos” while he claimed that “yellow vest” protestors showed Europe has failed on democracy, human rights, and freedom, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
“I oppose both the chaos by the protestors and the disproportionate force used against them,” he said at a ceremony in Istanbul on Saturday.
Erdogan also claimed that The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C) were “contributing the chaos of protests” in Europe and urged European leaders to fight those “terrorists.”
While Erdogan rebuked the European reaction to mass protests, the Anadolu Agency labeled the protests in France, as well as protests Belgium and Netherlands, a “Yellow Nightmare.”
The reminder of their past that the pro-government media don’t want
A Turkish pro-government TV channel A Haber accused the BBC and CNN for broadcasting some other programs instead of going live to cover the “yellow vests” and labeled their failure to give love coverage of the protests in Paris a “scandal.”
— A Haber (@tvahaber) December 8, 2018
This comment by A Haber, on the other hand, elicited a sharp response in Turkey, after many dissident Turkish journalists reminded them on social media that the Istanbul Gezi protests of 2013, when many TV channels did not broadcast any images of Turkish police’s intolerant response to demonstrators.
Some of the country’s prominent TV channels, such as CNN Türk, NTV and Habertürk, were criticized for broadcasting “Documentaries about penguins” during clashes. Hundreds of people at the time protested angrily against those channels for their failure to cover the Gezi protests.
This anger appeared to have not dissipated after six years and has risen to the surface on the streets of Paris during the anti-Macron demonstrations.
TRT runs from Paris protester
A Turkish-speaking “Yellow Vest” protester, after realizing that a reporter of Turkish State-run TV TRT at the protests, lashed out, accusing the channel of not broadcasting any footage on protests against Erdogan, but yet being on the side of the Paris protesters denouncing the actions of the French authorities.
— IPA Haber Ajansı (@ipahaber) December 8, 2018