"News in Mass Media and Public Opinion on the Impact of Disaster" Panel

28 September 1999

As Umut Foundation we opened the path to the discussion of examining how means of mass media reflect disaster news in this panel because of the serious earthquake that was experienced on 17 August 1999 in Turkey. 
İsmet Çiğit is a journalist who experienced the 17 August earthquake in Adapazarı.

The award ceremony of “ Violence and Firearms In our Society News and Photograph Competition”  Was realized in Istanbul Dedeman Hotel after the Panel.



Nail Güreli
Nazire Dedeman

Distinguished Guests,

I would like to welcome you to the 5. Organization of the Umut Foundation relating to the 28 September Individual Disarmament Day. Umut Foundation has been organizing Competitions with Individual Disarmament Rewards since its establishment and has been promoting researches on the reasons on the increasing necessities for having firearms. Having firearms therefore violence is reaching a considerable level day by day in our country. While cases of murder and wounding are on the increase sales of firearms are also on the increase by being folded and individuals are encouraged at violence. That is to say that according to law statistics of 1996 in a population of one hundred people cases of murder increased by 11% and crime cases increased by 88%. It is also seen that firearms constituted 21% of suicides. While there is an increase in public lawsuits against violation of fire arms law numbered 6136 by 83% in a 5–year-period, 1992-1996, this increase doubled at a ratio of population of one hundred people and the number of persons charged with an offense

Increased by 74%. As you see usage of firearms in committing crimes has also increased. Furthermore firearms cause deaths 5 times more than cutters. Ministry of Internal Affairs 1997 Evaluation of Public Security Incidents the rate of usage of fire arms was 59 % according to result of the poll applied to 234 convicts who were sentenced because of murder in Ankara Half-open Prison in the years 1985-1996. Unfortunately, it is obvious that this rate has reached a formidable level if the statistics are taken today. The intensity of crimes regarding violence and fire arms in public lawsuits against criminal suits are like this: cases of murder that were 4810 in 1987 were 6980 in 1997.Cases of nonaccidental murder increased from 13843 to 19942 and other crime cases increased from 73839 to 97370. The figures are really formidable. When we add cases of robbery, kidnapping, hostage and suicides with fire arms the usage of firearms in our country is really frightening. Because of these reasons we, as Umut Foundation, demand from those who establish laws to make the ownership of guns harder. Our country requires this law amendment for the collection of existing firearms and for the reapplication of license. Ownership of firearms should be subjected to courses. Experts in a written form should give license to those who pass the practice exam and it should be necessary that peaceful situations of those people should be ratified by experts. Moreover the obligation to have lock systems on firearms is significant in terms of protecting our children and youth. Another demand from those who establish laws is to stiffen prospective punishments in order to cause deterrence. The panel subjects that our panelists are going to talk about today is means of mass media and the effects of disaster news on public opinion. The connection between disaster news and Umut Foundation Individual Disarmament Day is obvious. A firearm is a symbol of violence and on its own it keeps being a source of disaster news. It bears a disaster as a result of any conflict. However, disaster news is not carried out only thorough firearms; political, economic and natural troubles bear bad news. One of the tasks of means mass media is to convey bad news to the public opinion. Of course the task of means of mass media is to convey good news as well. However when we examine carefully we see that our media takes the responsibility to convey bad news primarily. It has reasons and results.  It can be said that the fact that readers pay attention to bad news more quickly is the reason and if the news of our country are permanently bad the media can do nothing about it. The task of the media is to convey news. This can be true and I do not want to discuss it. The thing that I want to discuss is the way in which this news is transmitted and conducts of the way of settlement of bad events in the end. The permanent presentation of the news whose reasons of the emergence and whose results are vague in an unsettling way will lead people to feel helpless, to be disappointed and insensitive. It can be said that the task of the media is to present news. If the duty to find ways of settlement is added to the media then newspaper columnists should take this responsibility. I again say that it is right. I would like to focus on the way in which news are conducted and the way of the transmission of news, the transmission of an event from the beginning till the end. When I watch news I see that I am not informed about the reason of a conflict. For example I do not know the cause of the conflict in East Timur, I am not informed. As far as I know a referendum was held on and then conflicts emerged. I do not know what was the history of the incident till the referendum. As a more specific example I can sat that my son Umut ÖNAL was killed 6 years ago. This event took place in newspapers’ headlines immediately. Why? The reason of his death was not definite. Media did not search for it. Instead of it I was presented as a sorrowful mother to the public opinion and the presentation of this news continued with this aspect for long years. Yes, I am a sorrowful mother; it is not possible to ignore it. However the real news is not this. The news is how and why my son was killed. This was ignored and therefore the news was just given without stating it beginning and end. I tried to find the answers of those questions within the framework of law. One of the reasons of my search for rights is to prove the rule of law and to emphasize the existence of the concept of the state of law in Turkey. The media reflected my efforts in this way only on some lawsuit days and presented them as if they were just struggles of a sorrowful mother. As a result of this the folk sympathized with me and found me right. However I was seeking my right within the framework of law. This aspect did not occur in the media much. In fact, the content of the truths, the effort to make the truths come to light and the truth would be sensational news. By this way the media would go beyond just giving interesting daily news and it would educate the folk to seek their rights and encourage them for it so the media would achieve a significant task. According to me if the media goes beyond just giving daily news and informs the folk about events it would do better journalism. Therefore, it would bring up citizens whose faith and consciousness of citizenship is strong. These are not achieved so I have taken this responsibility. And I had to make them publish the declaration that you have read in newspapers today. I succeeded the journalism of news. I would like you not to understand these remarks as complaints. I wanted to give a sincere example and to guide you. The example that I used for you to understand things I explained better can be a rare guide. Current journalism methods are insufficient in presenting elaborated news regarding the history and dynamism of the events. The current journalism method is to go to the place where an event happened, to do quick and short negotiations and to leave the event afterwards. This method causes news to be presented in an unsettling way in which the result is vague without having any information about a subject whose source is indefinite. This leads people to feel helpless, to be disappointed and insensitive. This is the effect of bad news on public opinion. However the folk probably want to watch news, stories from the beginning till the end with great attention. Therefore, they are more interested in the news. The media and the folk can be educated about the meaning and the importance of news through news whose rest is going to be presented the next day. That news can also reinforce our cooperation.  I believe in it and I would like to thank you for listening to me. I would like to thank to all jurors who participated us in the Violence and Fire Arms in our Society News and Photograph Competition, to all competitors that attended the competition and to panelists who are going to enlighten us with their speeches. Furthermore, I congratulate distinguished competitors who merit rewards and I wish them good luck. To a hopeful future.  

Atilla Özsever
Haluk Şahin
İsmet Çiğit
Haydar Volkan
Bülent Eczacıbaşı
Doç.Dr.Arif Verimli
Özcan Köknel
Erdal Atabek