While Berkin’s death united all segments of society without discrimination, such as leftists and rightists, Yeni Akit and several other partisan newspapers, including Yeni Şafak, considered the incident an opportunity to attack the sensitivities of the society with insulting headlines. On its front page, Yeni Akit used the provocative subheading “Abusing Time,” referring to Zaman’s headline “Berkin reduces Turkey to Tears.”
Having adopted a partisan stance towards embattled Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) since a graft probe became public on Dec. 17, 2013, and shook public faith in the government, Yeni Akit has preferred to use its headlines to attack any segment of society that raises the question of the graft allegations’ basis in fact, as well as targeting dissident voices in the media.
Instead of mentioning the farewell tributes the Turkish people paid to 15-year-old Berkin on Wednesday, Yeni Akit reported on Erdoğan’s election rallies in the southeastern cities of Bitlis and Bingöl in its main headline and targeted Zaman for reporting on Berkin’s funeral. In its report, Zaman had commented that Berkin was buried amid tears. Berkin’s death sparked nationwide protests and thousands of people took to the streets to protest the government.
Yeni Şafak also adopted a hostile stance towards those attending Berkin’s funeral, accusing people of “participating in terrorist incidents” on Wednesday night after the funeral, in reference to the nationwide protests staged against the government’s apathy towards Berkin’s death and the failure to take responsibility for the incident.
Focusing on reporting specific clashes between the police force and a few marginal groups’ limited aggressive actions, Yeni Şafak failed to share the pain that was felt across the country. Using a provocative headline, “Mourning by day, terrorizing by night,” the daily fuelled the tensions in society to assist the government’s drive to stifle the corruption scandal.
Other pro-government newspapers, such as Sabah and Akşam, also failed to reflect society’s united stance on Berkin by playing down the effects of the boy’s death, whose only crime was being in the street at the wrong time, across Turkey through small reports in their pages. The dailies had seemingly agreed to use the same fabricated story about a “parallel structure” in their headlines, along with stories on Erdoğan’s election rallies in various cities. Both dailies have targeted Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and the Hizmet movement that he inspired.