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Habertürk media sparks outrage over woman’s murder photo in Turkey

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A photo of a naked and bloodstained murdered woman was shown on the front page of Turkey's Habertürk Daily print edition last Friday, causing a social and media uproar.

The article was titled "The last point of violence against women", and whilst there are daily reports of abuse and ‘honour-killings’, Habertürk has been the first to show a photo so graphic and uncensored. The photograph clearly shows the woman's identity and the kitchen knife used to kill her that was still planted in her back.

Cquote1.svg I would have used that image even if it was my own mother Cquote2.svg

—Editor-in-chief

Habertürk has been highly criticized by social media users, readers, celebrities, woman organizations, professional press organisations and even its own staff members, with some claiming violation of journalism ethics rules. Habertürk’s own staff columnist Balcicek Ilter said, "the photo of the violated woman on my newspaper's front page is violence itself." Habertürk reported her husband, 45, murdered the woman, 38, in Manisa. A mother of two children, they separated after he was abusive towards her, the paper said.

At a time where campaigns are targeting the issue of violence against Turkish women, Habertürk's editor-in-chief, Fatih Altaylı, believes this photo counters reduced sensitivity to violence amongst the public. "I would have used that image even if it was my own mother," he said. Habertürk firmly believes they made the correct choice in publishing the photograph even when asked by woman's advocacy groups to apologise. "We demand the resignation of the writer of this news and the person who approved it. We call for journalism in print and on TV that stands for the right perspective," said Canan Güllü from the Turkish Federation of Women Associations (TKDF).

Cquote1.svg the photo of the violated woman on my newspaper's front page is violence itself Cquote2.svg

—Columnist

The Press Council convened Sunday to find a solution to this matter and its Secretary General, Dr. Hasan Sinar states that Habertürk has "ignored the Press Council and the Professional Press Principles" since mid 2009.

While this article has caught a lot of negative attention, there are supporters of Habertürk's choice in using the photo. Serpil Sancar, head of Ankara University’s Women’s Issues Center agrees stating, "This photograph illustrates the violence women have to face. I don't think showing the truth is bad. Seeing blood sets the conscience in motion."

Since talking with Brussels over European Union membership in 2005, Turkey pledged to strengthen human rights and the protection of women. Earlier this year Human Rights Watch reported "Turkey’s flawed family violence protection system leaves women and girls across the country unprotected against domestic abuse." The rate of female murders has increased 1,400% since 2004.

The Council of Europe's commissioner for human rights, Thomas Hammarberg, is scheduled to be in Turkey currently. A report by Hammarberg earlier this year noted improvements in press freedom, but nonetheless claimed "There is a need for immediate measures to defend these rights [freedom of expression and the media] and support an environment of tolerance to accommodate opposing views."


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