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Journalist helped stop 2016 coup attempt in Turkey

Hande Firat was the Ankara correspondent for a major Turkish newspaper and helped stop last year's coup attempt by broadcasting the President live from her mobile phone. In this interview she looks back on the frightening sequence of events.

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Journalist helped stop 2016 coup attempt in Turkey

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Hande Fırat, the Ankara correspndent for a major Turkish newspaper, the Hurriyet Journal, broadcast President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan live via her phone during last year’s coup attempt.

In this interview she’s asked what her reaction was when she first heard about the coup.

“I called many of my sources, whoever I knew within the ranks of bureucracy, government, and the opposition, including politicians, security officials, and intelligence officers. One of them was the President’s Chief of staff Hasan Doğan. He was with the President on the coast in Marmaris at that time.

Until the broadcast of the coup declaration I shared on-air the information I received from Hasan Doğan, which was that the President was following events closely; that he emphasised the importance of democracy; and that he would soon make a statement.

However, the coup declaration was being broadcast but there was no statement from the President. Until that time the only statement was from the Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım, and he said it was an “insurgence”. Nobody else talked, and there was complete uncertainty. Helicopters had opened fire, police headquarters were being bombed, and there was this coup declaration on state television.

I called Hasan Doğan once more to ask what had happened to the statement. He said they’d delivered it. I said none of the national channels were broadcasting it. At the same time there were rumors circulating on social media claiming that he’d fled or been kidnapped. There were bombings, and jets flying at low altitude creating sonic booms. I insisted that they come on the programme. They accepted.

Then I had Doğan on Facetime with President Erdoğan behind him. The crew mobilised. We broadcast by turning the phone to the cameras and using my collar microphone.”


Weren’t you worried?

Then the interviewer asked “I’m sure like me millions worried that the broadcast during Erdoğan’s call for union would be stopped. How did you feel?”

Hande Fırat replied:

“Of course anyone would worry. It was a crucial moment. First of all, I was doing my job as a journalist. The President’s speech and his remarks were very important. They immediately told me all the national channels were synchronized with us.

The next minute, I learned that global news channels were boradcasting me and the President. And of course you feel anxious. Both as a journalist and as a citizen.

As a citizen you the think where the hell has this coup come from in 2016? What is it with the coup? And at the same time fighter jets are bombing, and helicopters are opening fire. Of course we were all scared and worried… for our country, for our kids and for our future…”