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Questioning the Compass of the Western Media: Early Perceptions of the July 15 Coup Attempt in Turkey

This study investigates how the western media reacted immediately after the July 15, 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. To this end, 91 news reports and articles in ten newspapers from the U.S., the UK, Germany, and France, dating from July 15 to July 18, 2016, were analyzed. Based on content analysis, the early perceptions of the western media were categorized by sentiment as positive, neutral, or negative in terms of their tone, feeling, and emotion regarding the coup attempt. The findings show that only 42 publications were neutral only reporting the news, while 44 publications were positive about the coup attempt favoring the junta and failing to support the democratically elected government. On the other hand, only five publications expressed negative opinions about the coup attempt by showing strong support for democracy and expressing anti-coup views. Overall, the analysis shows that journalists are not free of bias; most of them missed or neglected the damaging consequences of the coup attempt on Turkish democracy and society due to their negative perceptions about the incumbent government.

Questioning the Compass of the Western Media Early Perceptions of
U.S., German, French, and British newspapers’ first reaction to the coup attempt of July 15, 2016. Western media’s interpretation seems to have missed or neglected the damaging consequences of the coup attempt on Turkish democracy and society.
 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

July 15, 2016, witnessed the uprising of the Turkish people against an unexpected coup attempt by a junta (group of military officers in the army) loyal to FETÖ.1 The incident can be described as a deep social trauma in Turkey that created “a profound lack of confidence towards public institutions and religious communities,” because this organization was mainly known as a religious sect having activities in education; however, it was realized that they created a “shadow state structure by penetrating into the military, the security sector, the judiciary, the national intelligence organization, and the state bureaucracy…”2 The coup attempt resulted in 248 civilian deaths, more than 2,000 injuries, widespread property damage, and financial catastrophe. Across the world, news broadcasts and media outlets announced this sudden event in their headlines for several days. While it was undoubtedly a trauma, the coup attempt was also a milestone for Turkish democracy; unarmed people ran out onto the streets to rise up against the military, and many sacrificed their lives for the maintenance of their country, their democracy, and their democratically elected government. For the first time in Turkish and world history, millions of people, whether they supported the incumbent political party or not, took to the streets to personally defend their country and their system of government against the coup plotters.

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