July 15, 2016

As an attempted military coup unfolded Turkey Friday night, reports on social media pointed to a community of journalists under duress as armed invaders attempted to sway reporters through intimidation.

Several Turkish news organizations published reports on Twitter, Facebook and their websites indicating they were being forcibly interrupted as they tried to gather news.

Meanwhile, audiences turned to live video published on Facebook and Periscope to get firsthand accounts of the developing story.

Late Friday night, CNN Turk, a joint venture of Turner Broadcasting International and Turkey’s Dogan Media Group, tweeted that military forces attempting a coup had entered their building and cut the broadcast short.

The studio was devoid of journalists as the situation continued to develop, although a live feed of the empty set could be seen on Facebook, with chanting and whistling in the background.

CNN Turk has since resumed its broadcast, a spokesperson told Poynter Friday night.

Ismail Saymaz, a Turkish journalist, tweeted this video of police and civilians taking back the headquarters of CNN Turk:

The Hürriyet Daily News, an English-language daily newspaper in Turkey, reported being confronted by “a group of soldiers” who entered the building and “took several hostages.” Emre Kızılkaya, whose Twitter bio lists him as a digital content coordinator, reported that some of his colleagues had been captured.

They were reported safe after the soldiers who raided the building were arrested.

Earlier Friday, TRT World, Turkey’s state-run broadcaster, reported being forced off-air by a military faction after an anchor was ordered to read a statement declaring the military had assumed control over the government:

Later, after TRT was back in the studio, an anchor reported reading the statement under duress:

Meanwhile, as several Turkish outlets were disrupted by the attempted coup, many looked to social media for updates. Reports indicated that networks, including Twitter and Facebook were blocked in Turkey, but journalists continued to use them to give running updates on the situation. Twitter later said its service may have been slowed but not blocked outright:

Amid the chaos of the developing situation and reports of media outlets targeted by pro-coup forces, social networks delivered on-the-ground eyewitness accounts that users could sort through themselves, said Yasmeen Abutaleb, a technology correspondent at Reuters.

“This is why so many people are relying on social media right now,” Abutaleb told Poynter. “It’s not filtered, and everyone can post individually. As the situation develops, people are going to rely on social media because we don’t know who’s in charge and we don’t know who’s behind the coup.”

She underscored one perceived hypocrisy that was apparent to critics of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey’s embattled president. Although he has cracked down on social media in the past, limiting its access to Turkish citizens, he relied on a Facetime video call to address the country Friday night.

“One of the ironic things about this is some critics of Erdogan have pointed out that he’s very critical of social media companies, like Facebook and Twitter,” Abutaleb said. “And he’s been using them during this attempted coup.”

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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