CNN-Turk airs penguin documentary during Istanbul riots

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called social media a "nuisance." Here's why.

Mar 2, 2020, 6:27 pm*

Internet Culture


Cooper Fleishman

While masses of protesters battled police armed with tear gas bombs in Istanbul Saturday, CNN-Turk chose instead to air an episode of Spy in the Huddle, a three-part documentary on penguins.

The broadcast poured lighter fluid on online accusations of a countrywide media blackout over riots in Taksim Square, where demonstrators protested a government initiative to turn a park into a shopping center and army barracks.

Ignored in local media, Turkish protesters go online

Bloomberg Turkey Bureau Chief Benjamin Harvey tweeted Saturday:

A follower responded with a photo of a television:


A comparison shot of CNN-Turk’s and CNN International’s coverage popped up on 


The broadcast prompted outrage on Twitter, Tumblr, and even CNN online, where a CNN iReport community contributor published the article “CNN Turk shows documentary on penguins while CNN International reports Istanbul”:

Why does CNN international show live coverage of the protests in Turkey, while CNN Türk show a documentary on Penguins? How is this even possible? How can it ignore the police brutality—there are dozens and dozens of clips? How can it not show the broad sections of Turkish society, when the PM says it is only a group of radicals. How can it collude with a government obviously out of control? Yesterday the PM admitted the police had overacted and there will be investigations. And today? It continues all over Turkey. 

CNN advertised the broadcast on May 31. Meanwhile, this was happening in Taksim Square:

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called social media a “nuisance.” This might be why: Facebook has become one of the only reliable means of spreading information. This video, of police surrounding and beating an unarmed women, has been shared more than 30,000 times.

As of June 2, the violence continues:

Yaprak Ünver contributed to this report.

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*First Published: Jun 2, 2013, 5:47 pm