Bianet: Özkan Güven “During the Gezi Resistance All Channels Hid the Public from the Public”

This is the story of Özkan Güven who resigned from the kitchen of the media that ignored the people on the street but loved penguins. While resigning he said #yasasıngeziruhu (#longlivethespiritofgezi).   


  • I resigned from NTV where I worked as an editor. #yasasıngeziruhu

Özkan Güven who resigned from NTV Television because of its broadcasting policies during the Gezi resistance talked to Bianet. Güven tells of the effects of his protest against the media institution that he was working for staying silent during the  struggle:

“You may imagine how hundreds of disappointed people feel coming to the door of NTV protesting. Bad.”

Though resigning is a difficult decision for all workers, Güven explains his decision as, “It’s just one plate of food; we could have filled it somehow anyway. I am not hungry yet but my conscience is at peace.”

Here is the story of Özkan Güven who resigned from the kitchen of the media who ignored the people on the street but who loved penguins:

Please tell us the process of leaving NTV? What were your reasons? How did people react to your decision? Resigning is difficult especially in financial terms, on which circumstances did you make this decision? 

On May 30, the cruel attack on the people setting up tents to protect trees in Gezi Park caused the rebellion . We all know the reasons of this rebellion. Our freedom was being taken from our hands, they interfered with our lifestyles. We are old enough to know that power brings on arrogance. And arrogance may make a person do anything. While this huge city was suffocating with the flame of this arrogance, was taking a bath with water mixed with chemicals, television for some reason thought the breeding grounds of penguins, the process of making Gaziantep’s famous meatballs  much more interesting.

penguen1I do love penguins too. I have the worries of leaving this world without being able to hug penguins but if the people losing their eyes with tear gas cartridges, people killed by being beaten up with  sticks, people attacked by machetes, people meeting with water mixed with Talcid at the age of eight, would not be the subject of the news, when would they be? NTV, where I was working, did the same as the others, became silent.  You may imagine how hundreds of disappointed people feel coming to the door of NTV protesting. During the Gezi resistance all channels hid the public from the public. Media hit the people right on their weak, wounded points. So we, Program Manager Murat Toklucu, my editor friends Onur Yazıcıoğlu and Burcu Doğan, decided to quit. We took time off and when we came back, resigned.

We of course knew that resigning would cause us prolems financially. But it’s just one plate of food; we could have filled it somehow anyway. I am not hungry yet but my conscience is at peace.

“Editorial independence has never existed!” 

With Gezi resistance media workers who quit their job or who were fired have been the most discussed topic. And because of that NTV was  one of the first institutions that was being protested. Did this censorship start with Gezi or was there a particular breaking point? 

NTV was the television channel acting with the motto of “The News Channel of Turkey” and had gained the trust of people. This perception constructed over fifteen years was destroyed in fifteen days. People were so disappointed. Behind all those reactions to NTV there was its attitude towards Gezi resistance. We can not mention editorial independence, not only for NTV but in any TV channels and newspapers. This was the case long before the  Gezi resistance.

Comparing the intervention to the news before and after Gezi, what is the general view? Was there more editorial independence  before Gezi? If so, what has changed, which factors were effective? 

Almost all the owners of television channels and newspapers do have some trade relations other than media. So they are face to face with the state, the government. They have to build good relations within this network. Since they are being told, “If you are a good kid, one day you will get to see the Smurfs,” there comes the censorship. It is of course very sad that even though  Kuru Kahveci Mehmet Efendi has gained independence, there is no editorial independence you can speak of.

With regard to the question above, if you need to make a general media evaluation, what are the handicaps the media experiences when it comes to editorial independence and censorship? What is the effect of patronage?  What are the outcomes of those handicaps? 

We have seen what happens when there is no editorial independence. We have eaten the poisonous fruits of hiding people from people, manipulating the truth. All those things have happened so that the government will not be bothered. Because the PM may get angry, the owner of that media institution may fall victim to his wrath, tenders may die in vain, you may be erased. When this is the situation you give the news that the government will not have problems with, start to pick the guests for a discussion program like choosing watermelons in the market.

“Media will be damaged for a long time”

What kind of audience do you think  the media will encounter, how will the media change from now on? Or will it stay the same and continue just as it has been till now? 

We have all seen that media has been damaged. It seems like it will be damaged for a long time. When the balance of power has changed the perception of journalism will also change. But till then some large groups of people will continue to meet their needs by gathering news through social media. Because the eyes of the audience have opened with the Gezi resistance and I don’t think they will show any mercy for anyone. We live in an era when falsified news or censorship is detected, the most, in ten minutes. Whoever is closer to the truth, people will be drawn to them. For now it seems social media is the closest one.

For the last question, what do you plan to do about your profession from now on? How have Gezi, and resigning changed you? 

I have been experiencing a period when I feel estranged from my profession. For now I plan doing absolutely nothing. I haven’t watched television, haven’t bought newspapers for two months. It is sometimes good to stop, I have been waiting to feel better. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

Who is Özkan Güven?

After working in Cumhuriyet Newspaper for years Güven worked as a correspondent and editor in Sabah, Milliyet and Star newspapers. He started to work in NTV as a program editor in the beginning of 2012. He resigned from NTV as a result of its broadcasting policies in the process of  the  Gezi resistance on June 28.


Elif Akgül
24 June 2013

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