DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — “Ground zero at the border” was a term the Turkish media used frequently in the 1990s when Turkey carried out cross-border military operations into northern Iraq to pursue militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Journalists covering the operations would say they were reporting from “ground zero at the border” to emphasize that they were at the Turkish-Iraqi frontier. Yet, at times, some of those who made that claim would in reality be kilometers away from the border.
The Turkish media is back at “ground zero at the border,” but this time at the Syrian border, as the Turkish military presses ahead with its offensive on Kurdish-held Afrin. In the 1990s, the public had to rely largely on what the mainstream media reported, but today, in the digital era, people have easy access to various news sources via the internet. Agence France-Presse, for instance, reported that historical sites were damaged in the operation, even though the Turkish media did not mention the issue. Also, Turkish officials frequently emphasize that utmost attention is paid to avoid civilian casualties, but according to Robert Fisk, the veteran reporter of The Independent, civilians were hit as well. In the Turkish media, such reports could be found only in a few opposition news sites.