A violent protest in Ankara, Turkey, Thursday delivered a mind-bending visual moment as a female TV reporter was barreled into the air by the direct force of a water cannon whilst covering the event. Even worse, it appears that the water from the cannon was mixed with pepper spray as a further, painful deterrent to the crowds. The image above was captured by Reuters photographer Umit Bektas.
Nearly 2,000 protesters turned out to demand the release of army officers who were jailed for allegedly plotting a coup against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP). Mixed into the unrest was outrage over a restrictive new Internet bill that protesters are urging Turkish President Abdullah Gul not to approve before it becomes law in 15 days.
The Turkish government passed a bill last week allowing hundreds of officers to be retried after mass trials in 2012 and 2013 put hundreds of them in prison for attempting to topple Erdogan. There were also reports that a five-year limit for detentions without convictions would not be applied in the coup trials.
"We are here to demand the release of all the patriots. Turkey is living under Tayyip's rule of repression," Emine Altin, a protester, told AFP.
Riot police used tear gas in the protest, but also blasted a water cannon containing pepper spray at crowds. While journalists are supposed to be considered off limits by police, in this instance it appears the reporter and her crew were directly targeted. (You can see her being thrown into the air on the left). The reporter can also been seen in midair in the photo below, tweeted by the Wall Street Journal's Emre Peker. Police said that 12 protesters were arrested and two people, including a police officer, were injured following the protest, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Turkish parliament passed a bill giving authorities greater control of the Internet in the country by blocking webpages and content it considers insulting, or that invade privacy. Before the bill, offensive content like child pornography and pages encouraging suicide were banned, but now websites considered defamatory are also subject to removal. The crackdown internet and press freedoms has been met with increasing volatile protest over the last several weeks and months.
Startling statistics from Google clearly show the Turkish government's tightening grip around Internet freedom; the search engine saw a 966 percent increase in requests from Turkey asking them to remove content from Google products, compared to a 70 percent increase from the United States.
Turkey recently was ranked 154th in the annual press freedom rankings by Reporters Without Borders, a woefully low position that doesn't show any sign of improving. Last year, Turkish police cracked down on Twitter users for shedding light on police brutality and making what the government referred to as "propaganda."