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Gülşen Koçuk, jour­nal­ist of the Jin­News agency in Diyarbakır, answered our ques­tions on the work done by this media in car­ry­ing the voic­es of women and of the oppo­si­tion in a media land­scape dom­i­nat­ed by news­pa­pers at the boot of Turk­ish pow­er. An expe­ri­enced jour­nal­ist, she began work­ing in 2012 for the Jin­Ha agency, the pre­de­ces­sor of Jin­News, dur­ing her stud­ies in soci­ol­o­gy. She joined Jin­News in 2019.

NOTE: The English translations of expressions containing the word “kadın” could use the terms “feminine” or “feminist”. In most instances, we have chosen to translate by using the words ‘by women” or “for women”, notably in: “women’s journalism” means journalism done by women, from women’s points of view. Neither the word feminist nor feminine appear to cover completely the meaning of this expression.


• What is JinNews?

Jin­News is an agency cre­at­ed by a group of Kur­dish women fol­low­ing the shut­ting down by decree of the webzine Sûjin that was cre­at­ed after the clos­ing of the Jin­Ha agency. 1

Jin­News took on the mis­sion of becom­ing the media where wom­en’s move­ments can make their voic­es heard. When rights are vio­lat­ed, the agency sheds light on the fact, when a strug­gle takes place, it talks about it, it lends its pen to women who wish to express them­selves. It is an agency pro­vid­ing infor­ma­tion cen­tered on women, chil­dren, ecology.

• How does Jin­News function?

The agency pro­vides a space in which women can express them­selves and work. Which means that from the local cor­re­spon­dent to the cam­er­a­woman, from the tech­ni­cal ser­vice to pub­lish­ing, from account­ing to legal advi­sors, all of the teams are made up of women. Jin­News is the result of col­lec­tive work, includ­ing in the pro­duc­tion of its news. It func­tions through its relays in a num­ber of regions. Not only in Kur­dish regions, or only in Turkey, because Jin­News is an agency with the duty of mak­ing the voice of women heard all over the world. Its main objec­tive is the con­sti­tu­tion of wom­en’s dis­course and lan­guage in the field of media. Even though wom­en’s strug­gles exist since the appear­ance of inequal­i­ties between women and men, jour­nal­ism by women is not very old. Its lit­er­a­ture is notably made up of exchanges and dis­cus­sions between women. This is one way to pro­vide advance­ment to the exam­ples we have inher­it­ed. Thus, through jour­nal­ism, Jin­News attempts to con­tribute to wom­en’s lan­guage and expression.

• Do your offer train­ing to your cub reporters and oth­er staff?

Of course. We offer both train­ing with­in our own agency and peri­ods of appren­tice­ship dur­ing which the friends join­ing us learn how to prac­tice jour­nal­ism. There are fac­ul­ties of jour­nal­ism and com­mu­ni­ca­tion in Turkey. Once you have received a diplo­ma from these schools, you are not tru­ly a jour­nal­ist yet. Sev­er­al of our friends and col­leagues who joined us after these stud­ies, learned the prac­tice of jour­nal­ism here. That was also my case. This is not the sort of trade you can ful­ly mas­ter only with school stud­ies, in order to become a jour­nal­ist you must go out in the field.

When new col­leagues join us, while acquir­ing the tech­ni­cal aspects, they must also learn how to angle a top­ic from wom­en’s per­pec­tive. If not, we would be no dif­fer­ent from the media who inform with a patri­ar­chal lan­guage and point of view.

More­over in our region, we have the Dicle-Fırat Jour­nal­ist Asso­ci­a­tion. Work­shops are orga­nized there to which we con­tribute and who also offer train­ing in jour­nal­is­tic lan­guage in var­i­ous fields, for exam­ple, on top­ics con­cern­ing women, chil­dren. The train­ing process should go on until the jour­nal­ist says “that’s it for me.” But if truth be told, that moment nev­er arrives. Jour­nal­ism is an end­less jour­ney. Per­haps jour­nal­ism ends when you say “that’s it, I’m a jour­nal­ist now”. You must con­stant­ly be open to progress, to train­ing. Here, we attempt to trans­mit this method. None of us received per­fect pro­fes­sion­al train­ing, but we learned jour­nal­ism from peo­ple who prac­tice it. We share our learn­ing one with the oth­er, each of us is both an appren­tice and a train­er. This is not about trans­mit­ting knowl­edge out of a mould and say­ing “here, this is what jour­nal­ism is about”. That is a con­tra­dic­tion. Jour­nal­ism must be out­side the boxes.

JinNews Gülsen Koçuk• If I’m under­stand­ing cor­rect­ly, there is no “spe­cial­iza­tion” with­in your agency?

Yes. Of course, there is a shar­ing of tasks, cam­eras, edi­tors, these are neces­si­ties linked to the nature of this work. The cor­re­spon­dent can write the infor­ma­tion but can’t do every­thing. So there is a shar­ing of tasks. But there is no ques­tion of a shar­ing based on a hier­ar­chy, with orders deliv­ered from top to bot­tom. Jour­nal­ists pro­duce their top­ics, while dis­cussing with their desk edi­tor, then these arti­cles are sent to the edi­tors who move them on to the pub­lish­er, and the tech­ni­cal ser­vice com­pletes the run. Of course this chain exists but you can­not say “I am the edi­tor, my word is final”, that would be an approach con­trary to the approach of wom­en’s jour­nal­ism. This is how we attempt to function.

• Do women jour­nal­ists with expe­ri­ence in oth­er media join your agency?

I had this expe­ri­ence myself with Jin­Ha, then I worked with Özgür Gün­dem, then Özgür­lükçü Demokrasi. Both were shut down… The expe­ri­ence at Jin­Ha allowed me to work with oth­er agen­cies. And today I am here, I share my expe­ri­ence and adopt the prin­ci­ples of Jin­News. Our edi­to­r­i­al col­leagues are all expe­ri­enced jour­nal­ists. But there is no ques­tion of impos­ing your­self in an author­i­tar­i­an way by say­ing “I’m expe­ri­enced, I’m here to teach you things”. Here, it is a mat­ter of trans­mis­sion of expe­ri­ences. More­over, although we have free­lance jour­nal­ists pro­vid­ing arti­cles, we also have salaried staff.

• What is the angle adopt­ed by wom­en’s jour­nal­ism? What is the dif­fer­ence with oth­er media?

In main­stream media, we encounter women either as vic­tims of patri­ar­chal vio­lence, or as a woman who is cheat­ed upon or who is a cheater her­self… Or under head­lines such as “the woman who caused a car acci­dent” …as if this nev­er hap­pened to men. We are faced with media allo­cat­ing women a spe­cif­ic space. From its onset, the objec­tive at Jin­Ha was pre­cise­ly to change that. The media cre­at­ed after Jin­Ha have pur­sued this objec­tive in the tra­di­tion of wom­en’s jour­nal­ism. The names may be dif­fer­ent, the objec­tive is the same.

What was our slo­gan at Jin­News’ cre­ation? “On the trail of truth, with wom­en’s pens.” To shed light on real­i­ty but with wom­en’s out­look. Even if you have a demo­c­ra­t­ic iden­ti­ty, this does not mean that you also have the out­look women have. This is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter. It is a mat­ter of ques­tion­ing the man with­in us, of putting an end to the dom­i­nat­ing, macho men­tal­i­ty. Even in oppo­si­tion media, we some­times notices macho approach­es or com­ments. That is exact­ly what Jin­News wants to change. Women are not only present in the role of vic­tim, they are in all aspects of life, health, econ­o­my, law, justice…Women are activists, politicians…Why for exam­ple when deal­ing with sci­en­tif­ic top­ics, or again with the coro­n­avirus, are men the first ones to be inter­viewed? Why do we con­stant­ly see men sci­en­tists, men econ­o­mists? This is one of the issues we ques­tion and chal­lenge. These are not mas­cu­line fields yet the social per­cep­tion func­tions with these codes. When you pro­nounce the word “pol­i­tics”, the image that appears before our eyes is that of a man glar­ing at you…

To sum­ma­rize, it’s a ques­tion of look­ing wher­ev­er women find them­selves and doing so through their eyes.

• Do you have an offi­cial sta­tus as journalist?

That depends on what you mean. There used to be press cards, known as “yel­low cards” attrib­uted by the Prime Min­is­ter’s Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter. They have become “turquoise” and are now allo­cat­ed by the Pres­i­den­tial Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Cen­ter. If you are talk­ing about these cards, no. You can only obtain one if you work in main­stream media. For jour­nal­ists who are oppo­nents, this is impos­si­ble. We have none, but they are not what make us jour­nal­ists. Besides, our objec­tive is not obtain­ing this kind of card, quite the oppo­site, we chal­lenge prac­tices that dif­fer­en­ti­ate and dis­crim­i­nate against jour­nal­ists and keep them from exer­cis­ing their trade. We, women jour­nal­ists, are opposed to this prac­tice of cards that have as sole objec­tive that of favor­ing main­stream jour­nal­ism, and weak­en­ing the cred­i­bil­i­ty of oth­er jour­nal­ists. A num­ber of jour­nal­ists are pros­e­cut­ed, tak­en into cus­tody, impris­oned, crim­i­nal­ized. But anoth­er part of jour­nal­ists, as if “val­i­dat­ed” have this turquoise card that acts as a sesame open­ing all doors. For us, the only key is in writ­ing the truth and doing so with a wom­an’s pen.


• Does the State exert pres­sure on you because of your work?

You will not find a sin­gle per­son liv­ing and work­ing in Turkey and who tells what is hap­pen­ing there who is not sub­ject­ed to pres­sure. When you reveal a scan­dal, there are attempts to pro­hib­it the pub­li­ca­tion of the infor­ma­tion, attempts to muf­fle the affair, or you are tak­en into cus­tody, or the media for which you work is shut down… Recent­ly, we wrote con­cern­ing an alle­ga­tion of rape on a 15 year old child in Gerçüş (Bat­man region) by 27 men, police­men, sol­diers and vil­lage guards 2. Our arti­cle was denied the right of pub­li­ca­tion. Nor­mal­ly, in a coun­try under the rule of law, in a demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem, there should be an inquest. But in Turkey, what was for­bid­den was our arti­cle reveal­ing these facts. This is the sys­tem in which we prac­tice jour­nal­ism. How could we not be sub­ject­ed to oppression?

When you are in the field, being ham­pered by the police is also a form of oppres­sion. Recent­ly in Ankara, this sys­tem­at­ic pres­sure exert­ed on our col­leagues reached such a lev­el that the Women and LGBTQI Com­mis­sion of the Turk­ish Jour­nal­ists Union (TGS) reg­is­tered a com­plaint. They do not want us to inform…You are thwart­ed, hin­dered arbi­trar­i­ly. Nor­mal­ly, the press ben­e­fits from immu­ni­ty. I am a jour­nal­ist and I am here to cov­er the event, to do my job. For what rea­son do you hin­der me from doing so? Are there things you do not wish us to reveal? (She laughs). Because among these things, there is vio­lence. Vio­lence against women. Vio­lence against peo­ple demand­ing their rights. Vio­lence against the work­ers. Vio­lence against one and all. Of course jour­nal­ists receive their share of this vio­lence… Every time there is a police oper­a­tion of polit­i­cal repres­sion, among the peo­ple arrest­ed, there is always at least one jour­nal­ist. Recent­ly our col­leagues were tak­en into cus­tody under sim­i­lar con­di­tions. But what hap­pened? They could find noth­ing against them so they were released. Their aim is to crim­i­nal­ize the jour­nal­ists. The minute you are tak­en into cus­tody, the mat­ter is set­tled, which is to say in the eyes of pub­lic opin­ion, your des­ig­na­tion as a jour­nal­ist is under question…In the Kur­dish regions, things are a bit dif­fer­ent. When jour­nal­ists are arrest­ed, the peo­ple tend to say “he/she must have writ­ten some­thing true.” But it is not the same every­where in Turkey. For exam­ple, if you leaf through main­stream media and look at main­stream sta­tions, you will encounter an entire­ly dif­fer­ent scene… If I were a reg­u­lar con­sumer of this type of media, I might think dif­fer­ent­ly. But the truth is not what they describe, this is some­thing I can say clearly.

• Four jour­nal­ists, Adnan Bilen and Cemil Uğur of the Mesopotamia agency (MA), Şehrib­an Abi and Nazan Sala, your col­leagues from Jin­News were arrest­ed for inform­ing about the civil­ians thrown from an army heli­copter. Where do mat­ters stand in this affair?

Our friends have been incar­cer­at­ed since Octo­ber. Pri­or to that, they were tar­get­ed by police attacks. When one of the two peo­ple thrown from the heli­copter died, out friends were denied their right to work when they went to the funer­al. And the deten­tions occurred imme­di­ate­ly after­ward. This is not sur­pris­ing because the State did not want this event to appear in main­stream news. Infor­ma­tion is pro­duced on orders, that top­ic was not to be men­tioned. These friends wrote about it, lis­tened to those who could not be heard because no one was extend­ing the micro­phone in their direc­tion. And that was enough to arrest them. They are still incar­cer­at­ed as a pre­ven­tive mea­sure. Their hear­ing is sched­uled for April. But their accu­sa­tions were only put togeth­er very recent­ly. Request from their lawyers protest­ing against their incar­cer­a­tion [Note: as well as demands for their lib­er­a­tion by orga­ni­za­tions, notable inter­na­tion­al ones such as the FIJ and FEJ request­ing their lib­er­a­tion] were reject­ed. You will cer­tain­ly see nowhere else the fact of throw­ing two peo­ple, two cit­i­zens, from a heli­copter. It hap­pened in Turkey, in that region, because they were Kurds. Had these jour­nal­ists not been informed about what hap­pened, they were pos­si­bly going to say – I’m extrap­o­lat­ing – “two mem­bers of the PKK were neu­tral­ized”. And yet, these two men were vil­lagers, plain and simple.

In any event, as long as you inform on this type of thing, you are a tar­get… Oth­er col­leagues were arrest­ed. No lat­er than last month… They arrest, they release, they arrest, they release… The sen­tences they pro­nounce mean noth­ing to us. Jour­nal­ism does not dis­ap­pear with their sen­tences. No one says that those who are impris­oned “are not jour­nal­ists”, quite the oppo­site, this rein­forces sol­i­dar­i­ty. One is impris­oned, ten take up his or her place… The fight for truth is not one lim­it­ed to three or four peo­ple. If I were not here today, there would be anoth­er woman in my place. Jin­Ha was shut down, what hap­pened? We go on writ­ing. Şûjin is closed, we con­tin­ue. The dai­ly Özgür Gün­dem is shut down, Özgür­lükçü Demokrasi opened, it gets shut down, and so on. There are always jour­nal­ist who pick up the torch. This is not a move­ment that can be stopped, it advances in par­al­lel to the polit­i­cal cli­mate. You have cer­tain­ly heard about the “res­o­lu­tion process” 3 dur­ing which time repres­sion stopped. Not com­plete­ly, in fact, but it did have an effect on dai­ly life. For exam­ple, for the jour­nal­ist… in the region, you were not kept from work­ing, you were not sub­ject­ed to vio­lence. But in the wings, we saw how things were not always that sim­ple. Every­thing hung by a thread and it final­ly broke. The deaths, the oppres­sion start­ed anew and inten­si­fied. There is no dichoto­my. Every time those in pow­er inten­si­fy their hos­til­i­ty against oppo­nents, the press suf­fers its share of the attacks. Those in pow­er can­not leave any space for jour­nal­ists to write. There­fore, it starts by attack­ing the jour­nal­ists, tak­ing them into deten­tion, then it shuts down the media… We don’t know how much longer our media will remain open. We do not know if we won’t be arrest­ed tomor­row morn­ing. Every­thing is uncer­tain, because these are the cur­rent con­di­tions under which we live in Turkey. One morn­ing at 4, 5 o’clock, they will take you into deten­tion, then they will send you to prison…A wom­en’s agency is shut down. But that does not mean that every­thing ends there. What mat­ters most is to car­ry on the strug­gle. And I am con­vinced that, even should a sin­gle per­son remain, the strug­gle will continue.

• What forms of sol­i­dar­i­ty with Kur­dish media are pos­si­ble from inde­pen­dent media across the world?

The fact that peo­ple with an exter­nal view speak up is impor­tant because it is not the same for us. There are two options [note: for the Turk­ish regime]. Either you are pro-regime or you are in the oppo­si­tion. In this lat­ter case all doors close in front of you. But when you come here as an inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ist, your inten­tion is very impor­tant. If you relate your obser­va­tions, your expe­ri­ences as they are, your work is dif­fi­cult also. But not as much as for a jour­nal­ist who works here. For exam­ple, why do out­side jour­nal­ists not ask main­stream media “what are your work­ing con­di­tions?” Because there can be no men­tion of work-relat­ed dif­fi­cul­ties for them… All jour­nal­ists have some dif­fi­cul­ties maybe, but if you are an oppo­nent, you work in the field becomes very com­pli­cat­ed. Most of all, the infor­ma­tion to which you have access is lim­it­ed. But the fact that a jour­nal­ist describes his or her obser­va­tions is very impor­tant for the objec­tiv­i­ty it pro­vides and also as a relay to a larg­er public.

Some press orga­ni­za­tions show up and show sol­i­dar­i­ty from time to time. But is that suf­fi­cient? No. This is spo­radic. For exam­ple, they come for the “Day of active jour­nal­ists” [Jan­u­ary 10] but the tri­als of our col­leagues are ignored and are not relayed. And yet, it is jour­nal­ism that is under tri­al. We have vis­i­tors for March 8… This is fine in itself, of course. But it would be best with­out an ori­en­tal­ist out­look… Because here, there is a strug­gle car­ried out by women, by Kurds and by oppressed peo­ple and it is pre­cious. In writ­ing about all this, jour­nal­ists must not adopt a detached approach, total­ly removed from themselves…I do not find the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion sat­is­fac­to­ry. The jour­nal­is­tic approach can­not be reduced to the cel­e­bra­tion of spe­cif­ic days. There are so many things in need of writ­ing in Kurdistan…There are details escap­ing even our own eyes. This is why the mis­sion of inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists is very pre­cious. Con­cern­ing the qual­i­fi­er “inde­pen­dent”, there is a sen­tence we heard dur­ing peri­ods of con­fronta­tion, for exam­ple. “An inde­pen­dent del­e­ga­tion arrived on loca­tion to make some obser­va­tions.” Inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ists are part of this. Their work is pre­cious for those work­ing here. And jour­nal­ists who come here have the pos­si­bil­i­ty of return­ing home with lots to write about. This is a place where you find your­self fac­ing real­i­ty. It isn’t only a ter­rain for the media, a place of polit­i­cal con­fronta­tions, but a place where peo­ple live and suf­fer the con­se­quences of war. This is why we alone are not enough.

Every­one must feel con­cerned. Just as work­ers who burn to death in New York are also my prob­lem, as a jour­nal­ist and as a woman, what is hap­pen­ing here should be a prob­lem for a woman in Europe or in Amer­i­ca… Sol­i­dar­i­ty among women requires this, so does sol­i­dar­i­ty among jour­nal­ists. Not acknowl­edg­ing the borders.

• What is the role of Jin­News in Kur­dish society?

Jin­News is Kur­dish of course, but it is most­ly a homage to wom­en’s strug­gles. And as it is an agency cre­at­ed at the ini­tia­tive of Kur­dish women, it car­ries the name “Jin” (woman). You are cer­tain­ly famil­iar with the slo­gan; “Jin jiyan aza­di” [woman, life, free­dom], the sym­bol of the Kur­dish wom­en’s strug­gle that has now become uni­ver­sal. For us, the word “Jin” is a notion that goes beyond Kur­dish women and cov­ers women of the whole world. Jin­News does not inform only about Kur­dish women and we do not have a spe­cif­ic mis­sion in that direc­tion. The mis­sion Jin­News gives itself is to make the strug­gle of women vis­i­ble. Again, this means the strug­gle of Kur­dish women but also that of wom­en’s move­ments in Turkey and every­where in the world. This is an agency for all women.

Inter­view con­duct­ed by Loez
Answers trans­lat­ed by Naz Oke

Translation from French by Renée Lucie Bourges
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Pho­to-jour­nal­iste indépendant
Loez s’in­téresse depuis plusieurs années aux con­séquences des États-nations sur le peu­ple kurde, et aux luttes de celui-ci.