In covering bomb attack, journalists report about a colleague

Friends and colleagues of injured journalist Didem Tuncay wished her a speedy recovery and condemned senseless acts of violence against innocent people.

By Ayhan Simsek for SES Türkiye -- 04/02/13

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Journalists in Turkey have long covered terror attacks and the tragedies' aftermath, but Friday's (February 1st) terrorism attack on the US Embassy in the heart Ankara hit home. This time a beloved colleague and well-respected journalist, Didem Tuncay, was seriously injured and remains in the hospital.

  • Journalist Didem Tuncay was critically injured in Friday’s terrorism attack at the US Embassy in Ankara. [AFP]

    Journalist Didem Tuncay was critically injured in Friday’s terrorism attack at the US Embassy in Ankara. [AFP]

"This has been a great shock, a trauma for all the journalists in Ankara," said Zeynep Gürcanli, president of the Diplomatic Correspondents Association. "Like my friend and colleague Tuncay, we journalists are often covering stories of terror attacks in our country, issues of terrorism. But one day being a target of terror like that we have never thought of this," she told SES Türkiye.

Tuncay, the former diplomatic correspondent of Turkey's private NTV television, was waiting at the entrance of the embassy to meet with Ambassador Francis Ricciardone when a suicide bomber blew himself up, killing himself and Mustafa Akarsu, a Turkish security guard.

Shortly after the bombing authorities identified the bomber as Ecevit Sanli, a member of the outlawed Revolutionary Peoples' Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C). DHKP-C claimed responsibility for the attack in an Internet statement.

For Tuncay's colleagues, friends and family, the attack once again showed the ugly face of terrorism. As a journalist Tuncay had earned respect and friendship from her colleagues for her hard work and objectivity.

Amberin Zaman, a columnist for Haber Turk and The Economist's Turkey correspondent, described Tuncay as sharing, hardworking, meticulous, good-hearted and empathetic.

"This attack again shows the meaninglessness of terror and violence, how it doesn't serve any other purpose than to injure innocent people," she said.

Speaking to journalists at the hospital where Tuncay was being treated for serious injuries, Ricciardone said he had great respect for Tuncay.

"She made the first interview with me two years ago, when I was appointed to Ankara," he noted, adding, "She is serving her country, by telling the truth to Turkish people."

Tuncay had worked for almost 15 years at NTV as a diplomatic correspondent and travelled to many conflict zones. But the terrorist attack caught her in the heart of the capital, in one of the most protected buildings, showing that anyone can become a target.

Tuncay had visited the US Embassy complex many times to conduct interviews and attend press conferences. But on Friday, it was more of a courtesy visit. She was dismissed from her company only days before as part of the NTV's plans to reduce its workforce.

Ricciardone, who has shown a strong interest in democratic reforms and press freedom in Turkey, expressed hope that Tuncay would recover soon.

"She is one of you. I am sure that you are also proud of your friend and colleague," Ricciardone told journalists waiting for news about Tuncay's condition in front of the hospital.

"You all play a basic role for Turkish democracy. And she is one of the best among you doing a good job," he went on saying. "I hope to see her as soon as possible again on the TV."

Like many journalists, Tuncay was also facing hardship and political pressure in Turkey's difficult media environment, her colleagues told SES Türkiye. Tuncay's story highlighted the difficult conditions of journalists and the risks they take.

"All journalists in Turkish media work under very difficult conditions. They have neither security, nor job guarantees," Gürcanlı said. "One day you may face serious risks in a conflict zone, the other day you may find yourself dismissed from your company. Unfortunately, more and more Turkish journalists are facing these problems."

When Tuncay was first brought to the hospital on Friday she was in critical condition, but following several surgeries she showed signs of recovering.

"We detected internal bleeding related to a ruptured spleen and performed the necessary operation," the Ankara Numune Hospital manager, Nurullah Zengin, told reporters on Saturday.

"Her right eye had been injured by shell fragments. Specialists did the surgery and we are continuing to monitor our patient's situation in the intensive care unit," Zengin said, adding that Tuncay's right eye may need surgery.

Since Friday's bombing, dozens of journalists have visited the hospital to give moral support to their colleague and Tuncay's family.

Colleague Ünsal Ünlü expressed hope that Tuncay will recover soon.

"Didem has talked to her mother and aunt. They were relieved seeing her better after the surgeries," he said. "Let us continue to pray for her quick recovery." "First, we couldn’t believe that this happened to her, it was so painful for us," said Gürcanlı. "For hours we have waited good news from her and finally Didem made a miracle. She has grasped life again. Now with all the diplomatic correspondents we are looking forward to seeing Didem's full recovery and return to her profession."

Correspondent Evrim Kurdoglu contributed to this report.


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