"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
Thank you, and may I extend my regards to you all, dear listeners. I congratulate the Umut Foundation for arranging this panel discussion on a very actual subject and I would like to extend my thanks on behalf of my profession. We know that the Umut Foundation has been working on an important issue facing Turkey, the issue of Individual Disarming, for 6 years and fighting to achieve the superiority of civil law, an approach we all share. I believe respected speakers, who are all experts in their area, will have valuable comments on the subject. I will shortly emphasize the discussion on the position and condition of media in two dimensions after the earthquake disaster which caught us totally unprepared. You know the media has been criticised for not doing its duties, and sometimes being irresponsible. Besides this, despite all the mistakes and some irresponsibilities, we must say that media has done its job with great effort to enlighten and inform society, that is how all the trouble, disaster, grief in the region was brought to the public eye, so the reflection on and perception of public functioned to initiate action by administrators. The local media, in particular, performed its duty with great self-sacrifice and with great effort from our journalist friends working in the region. We should remember the mistakes and criticisms though. I will present a measure about the subject and pass the floor to the speakers. For this purpose, I will read an article from the declaration of Turkish Journalists’ Rights and Responsibilities prepared by the Turkish Journalists Association, announced last year around this season. The responsibility of the journalist in the article entitled ‘in shocking conditions’ is set out like this. When people in sorrow, trouble, danger, disaster or shock are involved, the journalist must take his approach and do his research in a humane manner and avoid emotional exploitation by relying on secrecy. We see issues within this framework as a principle of our profession. We consider the mistakes of our colleagues within the frame of this declaration and from time to time, we issue necessary warnings as a professional organization. I really thank the Umut Foundation to have brought this subject up with this discussion, with such valuable speakers. And I present an important scientist of communication society, a professor, a faculty member of Bilgi University and Channel D Program Coordinator; Haluk Sahin, for a general comment. Please dear Sahin.
Our thanks to Haluk Sahin. I guess Mr. Sahin couldn’t complete his talk because the duration is limited to 15 minutes. I want to emphasize a point he mentioned. Truly, and not just for this event, there are obstacles in many events for journalists to reach the news and the correct information. That is why rumours and wrong information are broadcast in the media; we experienced this during the earthquake disaster. Journalists had difficulty obtaining news material. Especially, executives could not assimilate the function of press well, and we see this all the time. This supports the idea that we can not blame just the media for incorrect or incomplete news. With this remark, I want to pass the word to another journalist friend. Atilla Ozsever, a journalist of Milliyet Newspaper and a board member of the Turkish Journalists Association. Yes, Mr. Ozsever, please.
- Nazire Dedeman
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
- Dear president, thank you very much. You presented me as a young journalist, but I am 51, thank you. In fact, our colleague Yavuz Baydar was supposed to be here. He is the reader representative of the Milliyet Newspaper and perhaps the only ombudsman in Turkey, but I had to take his place because he has another assignment. He informed me short while ago. My area of expertise is labour economics and unions, but I want to comment on the subject as a journalist. Mr. Sahin explained the functions of journalism in a disaster with actual examples. I want to use a more systematic style. There are three functions of journalism in disasters: the first is to galvanise the authorities into action, both the local and central authorities; the second is to ensure arrival of support and help in the area, and the third is to continuously warn the public about such dangers, to prepare society with precaution information for the future. We see that the media played out part in this sense as both Mr. President and Mr. Sahin said. It really made an important contribution to gather support, warn society and force central authority into action, in this earthquake event. We can say that the media played the role of a public guard. As well as carrying out its duties, the media was also guilty of some exploitation as Mr.Sahin mentioned. Sometimes incorrect news has been given with misleading information. I have an example of this, although I couldn’t get well prepared in a short time. A newspaper reports that a Polish doctor caused the death of our citizen in Yalova-Cınarcik by mercy-killing. The title on the front page was mercy-killing in the wreckage, quoting the person as saying “kill me, I can’t take the pain any more”. Another paper issues an interview with the Polish doctor the next day, and doctor says that he would be hanged if I carried out a mercy-killing. He said that he didn’t do it, and witnesses confirm what he said, adding that there were many people dead because they couldn’t be rescued. News about this was unfortunately covered in our media. I don’t remember if that newspaper corrected the news later. Consequently, I think the media did not tackle the core issue but emphasized the details of the event. If you ask what the core issue is; this 45 seconds wreckage was actually a result of a 45 year build-up, because this Kocaeli-Golcuk region is known to be in an earthquake zone and is a very important industrial heartland of the Marmara region. There is a considerable amount of industrial investment in this region. It is very close to Istanbul and due to opportunities presented, people in rural areas moved here to offer cheap labour. Even though the ground was not suitable, these people were accommodated in 7-8 storey buildings. In order to utilize this cheap labour, and with concerns centred on profits, no proper city planning was carried out. As a result, many people died in the disaster and this approach can be considered as a reason for it. When we ask ourselves whether media was interested with this side of the event or not, the answer is no. We see that this is a problem of the capitalist system which ignores the human factor, and the subject is moved in another direction. The state’s weakness is apparent in such events with its shortcomings in social aspects and lack of social responsibility, all a result of the state’s social ignorance. If the Turkish Republic was a social state, as is written in the constitution, we would see public welfare put in first place, but unfortunately we also saw in the press that civilian initiative worked better, and state was blamed and subjected to media protest. In fact, a campaign for the state was deviated. I am not defending the state here; I am arguing that the state should be a social state and act for the sake of the public. Likewise, mobile phones did not work for a long time after the earthquake. Maybe this was a result of the privatization problems of telecommunication, lack of investment and equipment or the work being given to subcontractors by the ministry, so the state could not function as an authority to look after public interest. The media then blamed the state as a result of the liberal philosophy, claiming a propaganda victory for the minimization of the state and overvaluing non-governmental organizations. It is clear that these organizations are required, but the state, the social state, has a role in it. There should be harmony in relations between the state and non-governmental organizations. By the way, the media constantly dealt with Veli Gocer (a construction contractor - most of his buildings collapsed in the earthquake) and other similar figures, and vaguely pointed to dishonest contractors and corrupt municipal officers, but didn’t go further. There is another interesting point here. The problem is not only about Veli Gocer. One of the TV channels showed collapsed buildings which had been constructed by Ceylan Construction, Yuksel Construction, etc. but shortly afterwards, bosses of these companies called the TV boss and it was somehow decided that those companies will not be mentioned anymore. These images were withdrawn from later news bulletins. In the meantime, the government ruled by capital, addressing the emotions of the people and called on them for donations. The second step was to provide new business opportunities for the contractors. In the end, while the cost of the disaster was borne by the society, the advantages were directed to private capital. Strangely, on 18 August, the day after the earthquake a Treasury bid was accepted. Obviously the state needs money, and from time to time the Treasury bids are opened by specific interest rates, but the strange thing is that this bid amounted to the total of the bids so far. When interest income can be around 99%, many banks in this bid proposed a rate of 27% and the state had to accept it. Finans Kapital took advantage of the atmosphere and state had to give a rate of 27%, 20-25 points higher than average interest rate for this bid. This news was not covered in the media and only mentioned in a small newspaper column. We then learned that banks had applied very low interests to the money collected by donations. While the media was dealing with these issues, we missed something. A law – which labour unions call a social disaster - which raised the retirement age, was quickly enacted in Parliament, paving the way for the privatization of the social security system. This was not sufficiently mentioned in the media, with the media instead focussed on the earthquake. When we ask why the media doesn’t mention these, and when we take a look at the ownership structure of the media, we see that media bosses do not only own newspapers, but also TV stations, as well as being involved in the energy and telecommunication business. They have many industrial investments, and with this massive capital they draw back from questioning the system and the capital structure of media. They block interrogation of the system. Mass communication tools are actually ideological equipments. In the current system, the social system - the capitalist system - the system has to be reproduced. Reprodcution of the system takes place at three levels. First is the economic level; the system reproduces itself with factories, investments, etc. The second is the political level. The capitalist system has parties to support the system. They try to assimilate by society through these parties. Furthermore, the system must be reproduced ideologically. And this is achieved through mass communication tools. They impel consumption and drive people to consume more, ensure that capitalists’ goods are sold, and tell society that the system is good. So when we see the subject within this framework, I think individual reaction is not enough, and we must act as organizations as well. Thank you.
- Haluk Şahin
Thank you dear president. I want to start by congratulating the Umut foundation for their fight against violence and individual arming, an important issue on Turkey’s agenda. Very few institutions in Turkey see to and tackle national problems on the ideological platform so effectively and continuously. Once in a while, we see some effort, a study of one year, a conference or a publication, but the Umut Foundation works continuously on the same, very important and serious subject and I thank Mrs. Dedeman and the executives of the foundation for their efforts, on behalf of our press and our society. We really experienced a terrible disaster on the morning of 17 August and as Mr. Nail said we saw that as a society we were not prepared at all for this kind of thing. It is no doubt that media was one of the institutions unprepared. When we woke up with the earthquake that day at 3.02 AM, we first seeked media sources to understand what was going on. This is a fundamental reflex for human of this century. News is no longer just something that passes us by our lives, it is one of our basic necessities. Therefore, the media is not a simple institution, it holds a position to fulfil this basic necessity. That day, for the first 15-20 minutes after the earthquake, I searched the radio stations. Those which usually broadcast for 24 hours were connected to computers and continued to broadcast rock music. Then, one station did learn of what happened but said nothing more than “there was an earthquake in Istanbul, God help the residents of Istanbul”. Between 45 minutes and 1 hour later, the first TV stations started broadcasts, then the radios connected to the TV stations. That night, it appeared that radio stations especially were caught unprepared, as expected in emergency cases. That first 30-45 minutes is very important - people are worried, they want to know what to do, they want to take advice from the media. Here, the media is in a position to give advice. The horrible darkness slowly fades, I guess those 2 ½ hours between 3.02 and around 6 o’clock that morning were the darkest hours in the history of the Turkish Republic. This is because nobody knew exactly what was going on. I believe our friend, a Kocaeli newspaper executive, who experienced this more intensely will explain how they got through those dark hours. Nevertheless, I must admit as a person in the media for many years, the media was first to take charge during all the confusion. I also worked as a TV news executive. This is the way for TV and newspapers. There is always a plan for emergencies. In the event of an explosion, for example, our colleague in night shift will call the news executive, who calls someone else then the cameras are ready and they depart for the scene in half an hour. In fact, we saw TV stations put their emergency plans into action, arriving at the scene and then they started live broadcasting from the first half of the day. This is an important measure in terms of transition and logistics because most of the institutions which ought to be as fast or even faster to arrive at the disaster scene and help people there could not respond so quickly and presented a serious deficiency. Live-broadcasting started on the afternoon of the first day and we slowly began to see the breadth of the disaster. Most of us described the facts of the disaster with the helicopter coverage we received from Golcuk that afternoon, and I guess that is when the authorities noticed the event.
That is why I believe the media, and the electronic media in particular, proved itself for being quick to respond. I know about 100 cameras were there. All TV channels sent 2-3 TV crews, some 5-6 crews. There were local cameras as well, and around 100 cameras starting shooting at the same time. This was a very important development indeed in our media history. It was a huge disaster, it was spread and it was being examined in detail. Earlier, when there was an earthquake, for example in Varta, we heard about it 12 or 24 hours later and we tried to understand it with a few newspaper photos. Things have changed - we may call this the first live-broadcast disaster just like we called the gulf-war as the first live-broadcast war. We also saw the two conflicting inclinations within the media while it was there to make a continuous broadcast. I say that having 100 TV cameras arriving and working there is good for the society, but after they started we saw two approaches competing in the Turkish media, as they do in the world media. On one side is the approach trying to seriously understand events and provide material to the audience in an objective manner, on the other hand, we have the approach trying to make sensation and use it as a tool to increase ratings, serving people’s morbid curiosity. There are examples of both, but I must say that those in the media who tried to serve the more morbid curiosity met a harsh reaction, and had to withdraw from their initial intentions and continue broadcasting, retreating to more normal levels of emotional exploitation and sensationalism. For example, one of the channels provided comments from celebrities such as Hulya Avsar and Nadide Sultan on the very first day of the event – which met an incredible reaction, with hundreds of phone calls and e-mails. These channels had to take a step back. This example shows that the audience is not as passive as it was before. Later, people understood that the earthquake is not an event of one moment, and that the disaster continued. There would be more earthquakes to come. There were hundreds of thousands of people left homeless. There were dead bodies - we didn’t know how many - and masses of grief. We again saw a conflicting factor in the role of the media. There was an insatiable demand for news from all sections of society, as people had concerns about their own lives. How will the media respond to this demand? The demand may lead to high circulation of newspapers or TV ratings but on the other hand, meeting the demand irresponsibly and boosting fear and insecurity in society may lead to some psychological problems. I think professors and other experts of the subject have more to say on this point, we’ve also seen good and bad examples of this. Some scientists we’ve never heard of appeared on screen or in the papers and explained how earthquakes are part of our life, how this relates to natural powers, etc. but at the same time some journalists tried to provoke the paranoid tendencies of the society. As I said before, when faced with the negative reaction, they couldn’t have been more satisfied. The need for news is constant. The need for information is constant. Here is how we know if there is still need for information. When the need for information in a society is not satisfied some other sources of information take charge and rumours spread and ridiculous scenarios become believable. We have seen examples of this. Probably, you all heard that CNN declared with a subtext that an earthquake is coming between 11 PM and 1 AM tonight. I was in a meeting then. I received a call, the person giving the news to me was someone supposedly wise, a university graduate, who is supposed to know that there is no technology to forecast earthquakes and realize that such a news corporation wouldn’t act so irresponsibly, but we see that at a certain level of fear they can claim rationality and fear dominates. This is a sign of danger for the media which means there is something, the fear, to be exploited and we have to stay away from it, we have to inform society in a healthy manner. One more thing we have found out is that Turkish society desperately needs trusted sources of information, either from the media or from other institutions, whether they are authorities of the observatory, academicians, other experts or the media itself. Turkey and all other nations in crisis need a trusted press and broadcasting institutions. I believe this problem is not only about the media, but one of social confidence and it involves all of us. I hope we, as well as the media, have learned our lesson from this disaster. I hope the good performance helps us achieve better journalism and broadcasting in coming events. Our young colleagues went to the disaster scene and started live-broadcasting, and we saw that we don’t have qualified staff for this work. They made some mistakes but they had experience. I hope such disasters won’t happen again but I hope with this experience we can produce better work in minor disasters to come. That is all I will say for now.
- İsmet Çiğit
Thank you, dear President. It is a great honour for me to be here. We journalists complain a lot. Really, the local press has many difficulties. Being a local journalist on the other hand has many advantages. In smaller cities, jewellers, contractors, petrol station owners easily obtained guns. And the journalists, they have easy access. They are even offered by city authorities, I am one of those who hate weapons. I am a person who worked as an executive in local papers and refused to get a gun, and the Umut Foundation is therefore very important for me. It is my first time out of Kocaeli since the earthquake. I feel a great honour to be invited, to be here, to have an opportunity to explain what we have been through to such an audience. Thank you for this opportunity. But please excuse me because I have no experience of speaking in these discussions, I was also afraid of not being on time – perhaps I wouldn’t be able to make it at 10 in the morning. After the earthquake we are staying in the hills far from the city. They said it would start at 10 AM; I thought I would be ashamed if I was late, so I arrived last night. I couldn’t sleep well - they gave me a room on the 10th floor. I couldn’t say that I was coming from the earthquake region and ask for a room at first floor. So please excuse me if I am not in a good condition to speak. The 17th August event is hard to explain. It is hard to explain someone who has not experienced it. Let me give an example. During the Athens earthquake, we had got over the earthquake fear. We were checking where it happened. I saw Zulfu Livaneli on ATV after the Athens earthquake. He was then in Athens for a concert and was connected live. The magnitude was 5.8 in Athens, I guess Mr. Livaneli felt that - he was rehearsing then. He said it shook as much as it did in Istanbul. I have an interest in earthquakes and I am doing more research after this event. The difference between 5.8 and 7.8 (according to American sources) or 7.4 (according to Kandilli) is not as small as it appears with these numerical values. The magnitude increases incredibly with each increase in the Richter scale. Then I understood that you actually felt nothing here. You are so lucky. What we felt was enormous. Some experts tell us not to be afraid. The Japanese suffer this most and they tell us to be afraid and take precautions. I first experienced an earthquake in 1967; I was a child and I was very frightened. I needed therapy even before this earthquake. I was born and raised in Izmit, I always lived with the fear of earthquakes. I moved home 3 times since I got married. I always checked the ground investigation reports and construction projects, and when I had more money I moved to a better, safer place. I was expecting another earthquake in my lifetime. It was also scientifically given. Recently, I read in the Radikal newspaper that a specialist had said no earthquake could be this obvious, and that it was very obvious - but people without this fear died and I was so afraid, even though my home is in good condition, my previous homes are also standing, but with major and medium damage. Because of my obsession, we had earthquake scenarios. We were afraid of the closet falling on our bed at night. When it started shaking on 17th August at 3.02 AM, my wife shouted that the closet had fallen on us. I looked and saw that it was still there, but could fall at anytime - anyway things will collapse. We have shakes once a month in Izmit. We called them earthquakes, now I see they were not earthquakes, or this was not. This was so strange. Never ending, shaking you to death. I have an 11 year old son after 3 days I asked him what he thought was think was happening? He said he thought a UFO with an amateur pilot had been trying to land on our building. That is how he described it. It was something nobody could understand. It was extraordinary. Anyway, the closet didn’t fall over, and we were fine. When it was all over, we went out, taking a torch, radio, mobile phone and my wife’s jewellery box - we had everything, there was no need to go back in. Everyone was out; it was an incredible environment, first you think of yourself, then your nearest and dearest, then you look around. We lived at a higher elevation than in Izmit. The place they call Kayalik (Rocky). There are no collapsed buildings there, but you cannot imagine if it was worse there, where you survived or whether it worse somewhere else – I don’t know what happened. I had my radio with me. We went down. For those of you who know Izmit, our house is near the army corps centre; beside that is the courthouse and governor’s residence. We went down to the square around the governor’s residence. The city authorities had started to gather there. They were also afraid – it was a horrible shock. At around 3:30 AM we heard the news that the greatest damage was in the Golcuk-Degirmendere area. Our Mother lives in Degirmendere and we got worried about her; then we heard where it hit around Izmit. I may be wrong but at around 4:00 am there was some folk or oriental music playing on the TRT station on my radio. At 9 o’clock, 6 hours after the event, the Interior Minister declared that much of Yalova had collapsed. Adapazari had also collapsed. He said that he had been unable to get a connection with Izmit and that he didn’t know about Izmit. He wondered if people were alive in Izmit? Were we surviving? Unfortunately, Ankara didn’t know about it. We had no link with the media in Izmit for two days. There was no electricity all day – no chance to watch TV. I guess TRT was co-broadcasting with the radio. We listened to the transistor radios and car radios. On the evening of Wednesday – the 18th – a partial supply of electricity was restored to Izmit. As Izmit residents, we didn’t know what had been shown on TV that day. In later days we started watching TV but my exact determination was that media was far from realizing the state of mind we were in – they did not experience it. On the Wednesday following the 17 August earthquake, there was a football match between Galatasaray and an Austrian team in Vienna. We elected to go home and watch the game, stay at home and try to feel better, and finally we started to sleep at home. We, the local newspapers told people to go back to their homes if they were undamaged, adding that some small earthquakes would follow but that if people survived the first earthquake, they would survive the following tremors. There were instructions to turn on the lights, resume day-to-day life and open the shops - otherwise we would not be able to get back to normal. Unless we god back to normal we would not be able to rid ourselves of the fear and we would get sicker and sicker. Greater problems take place in your mental health, children are in awful condition, you are worried and you have nobody to reach out to. After the 5.2 magnitude earthquake on 31st August, we were sleeping at home, and my family got back to normal - but when I turned on the TV, there was nothing for my kids to watch. I wonder why they didn’t have any children’s programs - even TRT didn’t have anything. My 11 year old son was saved by the World Athletics Competitions in Spain which were being shown around then. I turned into TRT3 and made him watch athletics all day. He knows all the world records. We tried to manage this way, but we needed a channel which was showing cartoons. I heard that one of the channels had been closed down for 3 ½ days for broadcasting music, at a time when people needed music. They needed something other than the earthquake to see and talk about, but this didn’t happen. I would like to express a different problem about the press. We couldn’t publish the local paper on the first day; we started on the second day. Naturally, we lacked the distribution channels. Without any arrangement, we distributed them for free. We all went out, including myself, distributed them in parks, to people in tents and in their cars. National newspapers were also handed out for free. We started selling the paper by Monday, six days after 17th August. We had to - we are not like big newspapers, we only sell in the region – a place completely suffering from the earthquake. If we didn’t sell we would have had to close down the business. The national press resisted - they thought it was a gesture to send free newspapers to the earthquake region, but in fact it was just the opposite and we had trouble with this; they never knew. What is the system to distribute them? Lorries bring and throw the piles in front of the main vendor’s place, the vendor knows he won’t make money out of it and doesn’t even open them. People got used to getting bread and water for free; they got used to collecting and sharing things. In this fury children came and grasped all newspapers, most of them ending up as trash. They get into hands of people who never read and had never needed newspapers until then. One man has 10 copies of the Hurriyet, 20 copies of the Sabah - they get wasted. You really need to get one, to read something, and you can’t. Another negative aspect of this arrangement was that it was never monitored. We hoped that vendors and the trade would start working. The sale of newspapers is an important activity. The price could be reduced to 50,000 Lira for this region, not to mean unfair competition of course. Then there would be some activity. The main vendor would work. There are 100 vendors in Izmit’s city centre. They are open, but don’t sell bread or water; everything is for free, and it is more than enough. I want to thank Turkey and all the world for this. Nobody was hungry. In the first week we published a report; cattle started dying from eating rotten bread. They got sick and died, it was all so extreme. If the newspapers were sold, after the first week or 10 days, trade in Izmit could have been invigorated quickly. It could have been normalized, but unfortunately it was not possible and they kept doing the same thing. I don’t they finally started shifting to selling until after the first week of September, when we were finally able to obtain and read newspapers. I also have a complaint that Izmit was perceived like Erzincan, Varta or Dinar. I mean these places also experienced earthquakes and we are sorry about that. We had considerable loss over there, people faced poverty and I am sure everybody was upset, probably more upset than we are. Being upset was not enough; many people died, and I guess the number of deaths was more than given in the official records - but the survivors should also be considered. There are many people whose lives became so much more difficult. Not even one glass was broken in my house, not even a crack. Yet I had to move, because of my family’s fear. Now, I am living with my mother, my mother in law, father in law and my sister in law as a commune. This is so cruel to me - my whole life is changed. I was a man living in his own home with my kids so comfortably. Now, I don’t have this life. I am also a victim of the earthquake. Izmit is the richest city in Turkey. Individual annual income has reached US$8,000. People who immigrated to Izmit from other cities have already left since the earthquake. We don’t have another place to go, we are there and we have a certain life. We used to go to the cinema every week. We used to go to fish restaurants every week or two, we used to go to shopping malls - we had a life like you have in Istanbul. We don’t have it now. Going back to normal life, God save us all - the difference between rich and poor vanishes; if you have survived a great earthquake and your life somehow continues, you have to return to normal as soon as possible. I don’t think the media did its duty in this aspect. After sometime, Istanbul was affected by its own fear. As the media centres are in Istanbul, we were left outside because of the debates that there could be an earthquake in Istanbul. This should also be taken into account. I want to start with the people I like. There is plenty of material for Tayfun Talipoglu, for Ugur Dundar and there will be more for the days to come. Reha Muhtar already used his part of the material. Also among other journalists, there is material for Saadettin Teksoy. There are some superstitious stories but beyond these, there were people who lived like you did until 17th August. The fish restaurant I used to go to now serves meatballs, because it is surrounded by tents. When are we going to return to normal? When will be able to live like we did in the old days? We will continue to live in Izmit. We were in Degirmendere, a beautiful place, and now it is gone. The other day, I was there with the mayor of Degirmendere, Ertugrul Akalin. They had a meeting at the city hall, to which I was invited. They are very interested in art; they restored a building and now they are using the building as the city hall because the former office building has collapsed. I am watching and they are discussing how to bring toilets or water to the people in tents. At one point I suggested they build a garden cafe, somewhere we can enjoy raki for the next spring; plan for next year -Izmit needs this and Degirmendere also needs this. Golcuk is quite difficult because it is identified with the navy, but Degirmendere, Halidere, Eregli, Karamursel, over here around Izmit, Altmisevler, central Izmit - these are all very special places. There is something everyone can do to start at some point for the normalization of these places, even if it takes a few years. I think the press and the media could play a role in this. We would be delighted if you could rescue us from panic and fear, to move towards normalization. Thank you.
- Haydar Volkan
- The weapon, the pen and the camera are the three tools I have been using perfectly well since I was five. One of these hits the heart, the other hits the mind but the last one directly hits the person himself. Therefore, I support the disarming effort with all my heart. As I know how dangerous weapons are and as a multimedia person, I know how dangerous a camera lens can be. As I am involved in indirect scenarios, I know how dangerous the press can be. I do not like to talk about press in the presence of the valuable experts here. What is the reason for all these quarrels, pitting society against the state, the state against the government - I mean pitting everybody against each other? And how has media come to this point? I want to take the issue in a historical perspective. A man called Gutenberg invents a tool – the printing machine. Turkey imports this machine 250 years after the invention. There are many hand-written books until then. But there is no reading culture. I don’t want to give names one by one - you know them. Someone piles up 500,000 books in Sultan Ahmet and burns them for fun, and a cultural treasure is destroyed. How to improve print is another question. It improves according to the sultan’s policy. An embargo is imposed on newspapers. When that period was over the Republican system took charge, we sell the Ottoman accumulation to Bulgaria to be burned. I guess there was then a serious cultural gap, the gentlemen here will know better. Bulgaria is about to return the Ottoman records. It is a trick of history, perhaps it was necessary - like him, I don’t want to gossip, I just want to highlight something, and that is how we change. This is another horrible culture gap. But there is advice, a will. We write all books from scratch in a latin alphabet. We don’t realize this – again, a culture gap. This authority is entrusted to the Turkish Language Institute instead of universities and academics. At first sight it may seem right but the language is created by the common people and approved by the elite. Language is the national consciousness. Think about it, this institution makes no contribution to our language and we are currently using Turkish made up of 200 words. And it continues this way without the participation of academics and universities. None of the educational institutions have any hand in this. This is unbelievable. Recently, we have been talking about the earthquake. A very serious earthquake, however nobody talks about the continuous quakes in our cultural life, our social life, our consciousness, our humanity, our nation or even our flag. The fault line of these quakes is the state and the Government. And the groups who don’t protect our culture when they should. Our subject is the media, and I would like to draw your attention to a small matter. When the media opposed Ataturk and campaigned to bring back imperial system for their sake as my friend mentioned, they get Caliph Mecid to dress up and on the saddle of a horse and announced him the sultan. The place is in Cagaloglu. However, as may be seen in the Turkish Parliament’s records, Ataturk himself suggested and insisted on keeping the Caliph in a political position to meet the Pope or the Patriarch. It was actually a very important position to symbolize Islam. The pope did not send any messages for this earthquake for example – he didn’t have a counterparty here. For many other matters we don’t have people to symbolize something. I am not supporting a caliphate per se, but supporting an event. Ataturk saw the Caliph on his horse going to the Sultan’s location where the Cagaloglu was being abrogated for the sake of the media. So he abrogates cagaologlu on behalf of the Caliph, until the day the colour press started again in Turkey. So this is the infrastructure, and the press is the press again; I don’t morally blame the members of press. I don’t mean to offend my friends here. We know the distinguished ones but the boss society takes advantage of the culture gap and tires to rule Turkey despite their lack of culture. So drawn from this basic quake subject I just put forward, as a society, as conscious individuals we have to face the bosses and tell them to behave themselves, give up acting like the government, do their own job, inform us, explain the cause and effect relations. Otherwise, we will not be able to recover effects of disaster we are going through. If I am not wrong, we were talking about disaster news. So the media reminds us of disaster. We have to rescue the media from this. We have to work hand in hand with the universities, the media, the governments, the state and the business community to rid ourselves of this trouble. That is all I say for now, dear President.
- Bülent Eczacıbaşı
- Thank you dear president. We have heard some very interesting speeches. I have a question for my friend, Atilla Ozsever. Sometimes we have a laugh with each other and before the speech he said; “I will put the capitalist system in its place”. And that is what he did in his speech. I don’t want to drag this very interesting subject to ideological levels. Moreover, I don’t want to appear here as a supporter of the capitalist system, but I have to ask this question. What should we take as a model to direct the media and form the institutional and legal structure of the press and broadcasting institutions? What does Mr. Ozsever suggest? As he blamed the capitalist system for its establishment on a fault line, the capitalist system that blames people. He also blamed the capitalist system for the deficiencies and mistakes of media. What is our model, where is it, which countries does Mr. Ozsever suggest? Which countries shall we take as models for establishing institutions enlightened by science, contemporary, high-tech institutions with competitive power, efficient institutions where people can be employed with safety in the workplace and institutions respecting the environment? The USA, France, the UK or Soviet Russia, former Soviet Russia, current North Korea, Cuba or West Germany or East Germany, what country can we take our model? Would you share your opinions with us, please?
- Doç.Dr.Arif Verimli
Assistant Professor Arif Verimli
Dear president, speakers, ladies and gentlemen, I wish patience and a quick recovery for all citizens in the region on behalf of Mr. Ismet Cigit. I could see tears in his eyes here. First of all, it is an honour for me to be in this significant group and address this audience. I want to thank the president and executives of the Umut Foundation and those who invited me. A natural disaster has taken place. After this disaster, a psychological formation appears affecting a population of 65 million, and maybe some other nations. It starts in Izmit or Golcuk as the central base, and spreads both in a physical and a psychological sense. There are colleagues and professors in the audience who will know better than me - if I have made any mistakes, please correct me. I want to take the subject in a general perspective and then move more to the private level. I also want to reply to questions from the president. As an individual in daily life we see many little things added up - for example the problem traffic, in his worry to arrive on time, the room on 10th floor - and a projection of excitement/nervousness. If there is something to be sorry about, you feel sorry; if there is something to get angry about, you get angry. If you are going to feel happy, you feel happy, and the projection of these phenomena forms our emotional state. These are the common subjects of our emotions. We call these events of normal life. These events take place as long as we live, and there are emotional projections of them. These are somehow rarely or frequently experienced. There are about 590 conditions, one being natural disasters like the 17th August earthquake, pressuring people beyond their mental level. These are emotionally overwhelming. These are conditions with extreme pressure in the social and psychological sense. Thus, we are all under pshyco-social pressure, especially those living in the earthquake region. I will talk about these to relate to the earthquake disaster. I will also say something about the disaster in the media, how the disaster became a part of our life by watching lives in a disaster, including the reports on the TV news, the way they are presented it and the frequency of these reports, as if nothing else is happening in the world. As Mr. Ismet Cigit explained, the source of stress is these psycho-social events. We use the term stress and complain about being stressed out for so much in our daily life, but this was the real stress and from this point and on we are under great stress. We have an extraordinary psychological social burden - an emotional burden - and beginning with those people, whole lives changed in Turkey. Approximately 60,000 people died – probably you know someone who died in the earthquake – and 250,000 people were left homeless, losing things they liked and had bought, while some of them will have lost their workplaces. In this sense, according to my rough estimation, 400,000 people were directly affected. Affected at the first degree, by which I mean their lives changed completely. I will answer your question. If I am wrong, the professors will correct it. It will take one year for you to get used to this change in your life and be able to enjoy raki in Degirmendere. If the municipality works well, it will take one year. My assumption is that it will take about 5 years before the earthquake is off the agenda at the psychological and social level. Five years is not a short period in a lifetime of 40-50-60-70 years. The impact will gradually be reduced; getting over the fear, adapting to this process, getting rid of the stress and being able to sleep at 03:05 am, and feeling comfortable at night, for example. I don’t know why you feel uncomfortable to sleep on the 10th floor - you should feel worse on the ground floor because in Izmit all ground floors collapsed. No one could escape there, while people living on the 5th floor walked out. Therefore, ground floors are problematic. People with a loss here will face depression. They will be in depression while they get used to the new life; probably most will be in anxiety and we all know this. I summarized this with the earthquake example but the subject is different. I want to indicate a very important thing. The human brain is like a computer. You may argue about this but this is my idea, it is internationally known that thinking is a result of information with various processing of this information. In these processes, some intellectual patterns are formed. Humans acquire these intellectual patterns automatically according to their character and personality. For example, when someone feels life has no meaning if they cant pass an exam or if a girl doesn’t love them, he will continue under control of this pattern and this function of the brain is reflected to the outside world with his thoughts, behaviour and emotions. If you mentally accept this model of wondering what will happen if you can’t get the job, if you can’t drink raki for one year, it is frankly a distorted model - a model which perceives truth in different ways. It must somehow bring a negative emotion, probably discomfort, boredom or hopelessness. The things we call discomfort, depression, hopelessness and anxiety - which I can not exactly translate in Turkish - are all different from each other. We usually confuse anxiety with depression, but we see these are the results of such intellectual patterns. If you are so occupied with the thought of having lost your loved ones, it is impossible to have pleasing emotions. So these patterns in the human brain, created by character, personality or education, are related to the formula to comprehend the world and respond emotionally. I have an example about this – perhaps it is not related with the subject in hand, but I think it supports the argument scientifically. It is a piece of biological research about cocaine addiction. Professor Ozcan knows this, he is with us here. Now, you have two groups of cocaine addicts. One group broke the habit one year ago but there are traces of memory. The events during their days of addiction are known. You show a video to this first group. These videos include beautiful green trees, rivers flowing, sea sides where you can enjoy raki and so on. Their brain metabolisms are the similar to the metabolism and activity of people who never used cocaine, but when you show a video to remind them of the days they were addicted to cocaine, a memory trace suddenly shows movement, recording extra activity and action searching for cocaine. It is a biological model in the human linked to action searching for cocaine or searching addiction. We can relate this to your early memories of your old habits, the ones you remember and see disasters about all day. Therefore, while you see things about disasters on TV, in the cinema or in the newspapers, we can not expect you to get a positive effect from those images. I don’t think that is possible. In this sense, we can relate these two and argue about them and the methods. The human brain has very important personalization features. You can stimulate one part of the brain if you place half-cut lenses on the pupil of the human eye and you can obtain information from this. Alternatively, you can apply anaesthesia here on the carotid artery, paralyze one side of the brain and examine the activities on the other side. With the help of these methods, we can understand that it is the left hemisphere of the brain that perceives disaster and produces negative senses. In this case, left-handed and right-handed people also exhibit differences in the way they are affected. I mention as a footnote, but here is a strange coincidence; Avcilar in Istanbul was also seriously affected by the earthquake and people are suffering there as well; research was carried out into discomfort and depression in the area years ago to represent a population of 50,000 with a sampling method. There is a very good records system behind that research result. In Avcilar, can you consider that 11% are suffering from discomfort or depression. The records show these separately and together. Some 11% of the whole sample have negative expectations for no reason. It means they are expecting a disaster in their life. They think something bad will happen – for example someone may worry that their husband won’t come home, their home is going to fall on top of us, life won’t go on like this, our unhappiness won’t change, and similar thoughts - people are ready for negative cognition. They had this expectation - and now their homes have actually fallen down, it is realized. A disaster has occurred. This event devastated the lives of people living with such expectations and plunged them into anxiety and depression. We can conclude from this that 10-11% of the population are living with the expectation of disasters, even if you don’t provide any news. Within this population, there is a group of about 15% of the total, who believe everything you say, and therefore 25% is already under a negative effect. This may be 20%, 27% - 25% is the average. Therefore the education level of society and their acceptance of psychiatrists is very important.
So, the subject comes to education in the end, as for the media or society. The numbers may be incorrect but the education level in society is 3.1 years, and down to 2 years for women. It is impossible for people not to be affected when they watch TV - these individuals raised by Mothers who have difficulty reading and writing and understanding – they come to metropolitan places with little social welfare and economic power, and they then sit and watch TV. It is so easy, and it is a communication tool respected by everyone. They are surely affected, but how? 11% are already expecting a disaster. So, one can not feel comfortable even when watching a film, let alone receiving information and that is a negative factor. We may have more examples but I believe globalization is an issue here. Events like Satanism, which we have recently seen in media, could be considered usual, and what impact does that have? How many murders are committed in this manner in the space of one year? How many of murders are of this kind? Is it really different from the western countries? The issue was covered by all the media without any such remarks. I don’t know if it was a valuable source of news or not. It is not the point. Journalists can say that - we don’t know of course, but did the society need information about this, yes. I accept that. Maybe we were curious. What is wrong if curiosity equals ratings? I mean good quality programs may also attract high ratings, but the current approach is to awake curiosity and attract people to watch TV. I don’t say this is as a criticism, but we usually see people in front of the TV to see what they are curious about. One of the channels broadcasts images people with black clothes, with weird hair and piercing without any focus on how the murder was committed. Society was moved. It was shown as a disaster. The young people who dress like that were scared, they couldn’t go out. One of them was my son; he went out with a hat to hide his hair. They were afraid of being subject to an attack. There was a report about a man who attacked Salvador Dali’s painting, who was presented as a mad man. His honour was damaged, so where are the human rights? One may be guilty but should still be able to somehow maintain his rights and freedom. These are fundamental rights. The event was, in fact, different. He was not a politician or something. He was experienced a hard manic condition. So he could not be guilty, ethically or legally. But we chose to humiliate him in the public arena. This is the case in point. I don’t want to take a long time but I guess I helped relieve the lady. I feel proud for her. Now you can feel comfortable, now there are limitations for carrying guns because a psychiatric examination is required. Thank you, I think I gave some of you a headache.
- Özcan Köknel
Thank you very much. I will not, of course, take the subject to the political perspective. I want to emphasize a situation which took place in the media through mass communication tools two days after the earthquake and reached dangerous proportions. Just like the other speakers, this is a situation where people and society have faced death. It is the greatest calamity, the greatest disaster of all and, as the whole world accept, a unique disaster of the last century. First of all, there is a point to accept. Facing this disaster, as Mr. Arif also knows, there are people like us in Istanbul following the issue. There are people who experienced it but fortunately did not lose anyone close to them, as our friend from Korfez Newspaper said. And there are those who lost their homes, families, everything - all their history. In medicine, we call this a shock condition. I mean, everyone is in shock. It is evident that even necessary surgeries cannot be applied on a person in shock. First the person should be recovered from the shock condition. The necessary surgery or treatment can be administered after the suitable condition for medical attention has been maintained.
However, the tools of mass communication have had a serious effect on this; so far, they have targeted all the negativities. Besides, the government is not interested in the subject, neither is the Prime minister or the President, and so on, and as Atilla mentioned, all systems until today have prepared the ground for this disaster. The targets are here and there, come along! This is very dangerous for the mental condition of the earthquake victims because they already have a lot of negative emotions. They have fear, worries and panic; those who lost loved ones are in depression, and some mass communication tools have added fuel to the anger, hate and grudges with their headlines and other content. This is emotional exploitation in a sense, because you obviously know there are many religious orders and groups, and many people with specific political opinions that already intend to prepare the ground for actions aimed at advancing their political view and vision by exploiting these people. This blocks all ways for emotional support.
There are many examples of this. Some reject support from the state, they reject a doctor for he represents the state, and the negative feelings of these people with anger on the other hand……….how is this possible? Of course, such things can be discussed but only after the shock period is over; as Arif said, after people reach a level where they can comfortably use their conscious activities, attention, memory and so on, these cannot be used in newspaper headlines in TV discussions on the third day of the earthquake, and they shouldn’t be.
I mean this disaster….the media…………this is important, second of all we scientists made a mistake and it was given by the mass communication tools. Scientists were mistaken by discussing theories in front of the general public. You know there are theories, but these theories are only valid when they are supported by information. However, many scientists with expertise in this subject have discussed their theories and crated a fertile environment for gossip; with the conflict between theories, people were inclined to believe different things, fuelling rumours. Thank you, we are very enlightened, thank you all.
- Erdal Atabek
- I would like to thank the members of Umut Foundation and Anel. These subjects are all very important, I want to contribute with a quotation from Calvin Toffler. He said there are three sources of power in humans and societies which have used throughout history. The first is violence. Violence as a source of power is peculiar to agricultural societies. The second is money, used a source of power in industrial societies. The third is knowledge and information, used by intellectual societies. Of course we see violence and money used as power in intellectual societies, but it should no longer be effective. However, there is some change in the characteristics and quality of information, which concerns specialists and communication psychologists. In this era, especially in less-developed societies such as our society, information happens to represent violence and money. I want to highlight this matter. As Mr. Arif Verimli put it very well, the utilization of information as a tool of violence is highly effective in societies accepting anxiety and depression as a lifestyle, living very close to disasters, close to hopelessness and grief, just as we saw with the example of the Satanists. I don’t call this emotional exploitation; it is beyond that. Information used as a tool of violence is very dangerous and this characteristic shift may bring new debate, that is what I want to put forward for your consideration.