Turkey has so far been one of the most impacted countries by what’s going on in Syria, and its government has undoubtedly been the most supportive of the Syrian opposition, still the Turkish public opinion remains to a large extent uninformed about what’s going on next door.
Stories about Syria rarely find a way to the front pages of the local newspapers or make headlines in news bulletins of Turkish TV stations which are the main sources of information for the majority of the Turkish population which according to more than one study doesn’t speak a second language.
Journalists and social observers believe that it is mostly because of lack of information that Turkish public opinion remains indifferent to Syrian developments considered a matter of foreign policy. In that sense, the government’s supporters are in favor of its Syria policy and its opponents criticize it.
Social researcher Senay Ozden said that the “governments ambiguity paralleled by an exaggeration of rumors by the local media have both harmed the Syrian revolution.”
Ozden argued that the Turkish government hasn’t been transparent about which groups within the Syrian opposition it is supporting and that there are serious fears among secular Turks that it could be supporting Islamists including radicals. The fact that it had denied access to the refugees camps now hosting over 100.000 people to journalists and even NGO’s has made things even worst, especially in light of the rumors saying that those are terrorist camps.
On the other hand, she said, the media has done nothing to investigate those rumors; on the contrary it started exaggerating them.
“Very few journalists are talking to refugees,” she said.
“They say that the wounded healing in some houses are Al-Qaeda members, well I entered those houses, they aren’t Qaeda, I met a Christian doctor there, unless it is a Christian branch of al Qaeda,” she said.
Guray Varol, a freelance cameraman who just returned from a trip to Aleppo said his last assignment made him realize how “ignorant” the Turkish society is about Syrian events.
“Before I went to Syria, I didn’t know exactly what was happening, I knew there was shelling and there are casualties but I thought it was once in a week or in a month,” he said.
Mohamad Zahed Gul, a writer with affiliations with the government said that the Turkish media, both public and private, gives very little attention news related to foreign policy. He said that Interaction between Turks and Syrians have so far been very “elitist” despite more than 2000 events organized by pro-government NGO’s like Mazloum Dar, primarily aiming to “raising awareness about the Syrian revolution.”
Zahed also partly blamed the Istanbul based Syrian opposition for the lack in communication and said its members and despite the encouragement of the Turkish government have so far failed to reach out to the Turkish society and to promote its cause. According to Zahed the number of Syrian opposition members who appeared in Turkish media so far doesn’t exceed five.
Syrian National Council member Samir Nashar agrees. He says that the opposition has so far failed to give the subject the attention that it deserves, sometimes because it lacked the experience and sometimes because it lacked the social and media channels.