By Georgia Hussey, 28 March 2016
Gökhan Biçici is a Turkish reporter and was one of the most active reporters of the 2013 anti-government Gezi Park protests in Istanbul. While covering the protests Biçici was beaten severely by police and then dragged through the streets. Observers in apartments overlooking his arrest captured footage of the attack, which quickly went viral.
“The censorship in Turkey is stronger now than ever,” Biçici told Index. “There is no period in history where political power had reached this level of domination over the media. And there is no period in history where disinformation has reached these levels.”
Biçici’s arrest and the Gezi Park protests became a symbol of the state of democracy and free speech in Turkey.
The wave of public engagement was huge, Biçici says, and after the protests were over and people left the streets, he sought to build something more permanent.
“It was necessary to go through the resistance protests and realise the size of the censorship and the imposition of self-censorship and the corruption in the press.”
“In these resistance protests, millions of people went out to the streets. Hundreds of thousands, or even millions, went out to the largest square in Istanbul, Taksim Square, and when they came back home a penguin documentary was on TV instead of the truth,” he said.
“The younger generation was politicised by Gezi. At the same time, their relationship with the social media became politicised, too. All conditions were ready to appear citizen news agency in Turkey.”
Dokuz8Haber aims to be just that. “Dokuz8Haber is a foundation that brings together the journalists and the national reporters of digital activism, in a unified network,” he said.
Launched in March 2015, Dokuz8Haber is a journalism network that gathers various independent citizen journalism outlets to create a common newsroom. Volunteers and citizen journalists send their stories to professional editors, and the news stories are then broadcasted domestically and internationally via Dokuz8Haber. They understand the importance of disseminating news in new, modern ways – using social media, video and live-stream coverage and translation to get information out to the people of Turkey.
They have also organised numerous training programs for potential citizen journalists in all regions in Turkey, to train a network of reporters around the country.
On the day they launched 17,500 people followed them on Twitter. They now have 43,000 followers.
“Freedom of expression is a right we will never give up on,” said Biçici. “It’s an nonnegotiable right and it’s also a pursuit that requires hard work. Personally speaking, it’s what I’ve spent my whole life working on. This is why I chose this career.”