As the rights of LGBTI people in Turkey continue to decline under the conservative government’s rule, the community is using specialised media platforms to help fight hate speech and prejudice in the mainstream media.
With the language and editorial policy of most outlets reflecting the position of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), these media challenge a widespread ignorance and prejudices about LGBTI individuals.
“If we don’t tell the stories of LGBTI people, no one will,” said Yıldız Tar, media coordinator for online news portal Kaos GL. “Apart from the stigma related to these people, there is a perception that their experiences are not newsworthy. Since Kaos GL is one of the very few sources in this field, we have to reveal and share as many stories and experiences [of LGBTI individuals] as we can.”
KaosGL.org, established in 2007 as an affiliate of Kaos GL magazine founded in 1994, has an LGBTI rights-based editorial policy and aims to support journalists drawn from this community. It is based in Ankara, where all public LGBTI events were banned in 2016.
As Tar pointed out, “This makes media platforms such as KaosGL.org even more important.”
Another LGBTI-oriented media outlet is Gzone, which describes itself as “Turkey’s biggest LGBTI+ culture and life magazine”.
Gzone publishes English translations of LGBTI-related news from Turkey and uses social media, especially Twitter, to disseminate content inside and outside the country. Its co-founder Murat Renay said that the mainstream media simply did not act in an ethical way that discouraged prejudice or
“Their news is so biased that one could get the impression that they justify violence against transsexual and homosexual individuals,” he said. “Because of the language that… journalists use, [our industry] is partly responsible for inciting violence against not only LGBTI people, but against children, women, and animals, too.”
LGBTI News Turkey is another outlet translating relevant news from Turkey into English hoping to reach a wider community. Operating for the last six years, they also produce their own content, including opinion pieces, news reports and features.
A spokesperson for LGBTI News Turkey said that this was not always easy, considering the stigma often attached to LGBTI people.
“When we want to produce the original content for our website, we often cannot find anyone to talk to, and if we do, then they don’t want to be quoted as a source,” the spokesperson said.
Tar said this lack of visibility perpetuated this issue. “LGBTI people are neither the subject of the news, nor the equal members of reporting teams both in the mainstream and alternative media.”
“Our main problems are the censorship and lack of media platforms dedicated to this field on the one hand, and dismissing the existing LGBTI platforms and publications as private endeavors and not proper journalism,” he continued. “At the same time, this is a field where violations of human rights are frequent, and there are very few reliable sources that could be used when reporting on that. Therefore, [LGBTI platforms] need to join forces and work together to overcome these problems.
“Thanks to the LGBTI movements and campaigns, there is visible progress in the opposition and independent media when it comes to reporting on LGBTI issues,” added the LGBTI News Turkey spokesperson. “However, there is still a lot of insensitive content [in the mainstream media] that can really hurt LGBTI people. In many cases, that’s the result of misused terminology and a lack of awareness, and that could be avoided if the media hired more LGBTI journalists.”
“Being together and knowing that we are not alone makes us stronger,” the spokesperson concluded. “We should never forget that the fight for LGBTI rights is getting stronger each day, and we have a duty to contribute to that fight.”