Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke on Saturday at an opening of a book fair in Istanbul about the country’s shortcomings in telling its own stories and criticised the international media’s coverage of last year’s coup attempt.
Erdogan told the listening crowd, “Unfortunately we are not very successful in conveying our stories. This shortcoming is not only present in the written word, but also in theatre and film too. We are unable to convey our rich experience to the stage and the big screen. Spoken words are lost, the written words stick.”
Connecting the importance of a ‘national narrative’ to events, the Turkish president criticised the international media’s coverage of last year’s coup attempt adding that it was easy to see that international media had hoped for the success of the putschists.
“The double standard the international media organisations use in covering the incidents we have undergone in recent years is known,” the president said, adding, “It is the binding duty of all of us to hold onto this legacy. As always, we cannot count on the conscience or actions of others.”
Erdogan also had a warning for the youth of Turkey. “True knowledge cannot be attained through aphorisms squeezed into 140 characters. You cannot become a scholar that way. You cannot become a scholar with crumbs of knowledge found on search engines. One can only become a half portion intellectual this way. Nothing else.”
Erdogan, who has vowed to ban Twitter on several occasions, is not very fond of the microblogging social media platform especially after the Gezi protests which erupted in the spring of 2013. Back then, Erdogan had vowed to ‘eradicate Twitter’ and in 2014 Turkey became one of two countries – the other being China – to block Twitter entirely.
Twitter is accessible in Turkey at present and popularly used. However, a social media crackdown after last year’s coup attempt has led to 3,861 social media users being detained. 1,734 individuals have been arrested and imprisoned while 1,317 were released on judicial control, with 810 people released after questioning.