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Editorial Changes at Cumhuriyet: the Loss of a Major Independent Voice in Turkey?

Crime & Justice, Democracy, Headlines, Human Rights, Press Freedom

Cumhuriyet's headquarters dressed up for Victory Day, which commemorates Turkish victory against Greek forces at the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922).

Cumhuriyet’s headquarters dressed up for Victory Day, which commemorates Turkish victory towards Greek forces at the Battle of Dumlupınar (August 26-30, 1922). Credit score: Christopher Shand

Nov 1 2018 (IPS) – Censorship, controversial judicial proceedings and imprisonment: such is the present danger run by independently-thinking journalists in Turkey.

Reporters With out Borders ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 nations in its World Press Freedom Index, describing the nation as the ‘biggest jail for journalists in the world’. The authorities have raided and closed many media retailers, censored social networks and the web, even ignoring selections of the Constitutional Courtroom after a state of emergency was established publish the failed army coup in July 2016.

Cumhuriyet has been Turkey’s oldest and far trusted newspaper for nearly a century. This editorial change might result in a shift in the reporting of points resembling human rights, gender equality, secularism and safety of the setting.

One of the newest modifications believed to be half of this transition occurs to be the change in management of the unbiased newspaper Cumhuriyet. On September 7, 2018, following the assembly of the new board, former editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu resigned together with a number of different journalists who questioned its impartiality.

A number of sources confirmed that the new administration was elected with the assist of public authorities and that they began turning a blind eye on occasions crucial of present authorities. They’ve already been scrutinized for underreporting on points associated to the Kurdish individuals or previous jail massacres.

Cumhuriyet has been Turkey’s oldest and far trusted newspaper for nearly a century. This editorial change might result in a shift in the reporting of points corresponding to human rights, gender equality, secularism and safety of the surroundings.

These points have been fearlessly reported by Murat Sabuncu and his editorial board throughout current occasions. In 2015 Cumhuriyet was awarded the Freedom of the Press Prize by Reporters With out Borders in recognition of its defence of liberal values in the face of Turkish Authorities strain. The yr after, the newspaper acquired the Proper Livelihood Award for its ‘commitment to freedom of expression in the face of oppression, censorship, imprisonment and death threats’.

In October 2016, 4 months after the coup and following a denunciation from members of the present board, Mr Sabuncu, together with different colleagues, was detained and imprisoned with out expenses. He was then convicted of collusion with terrorists and sentenced to seven and a half years in jail. Mr Sabuncu and colleagues have been launched in March this yr, pending the end result of their attraction to the Turkish Supreme Courtroom.

That is the final interview of Mr Sabuncu as editor-in-chief.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet’s headquarters, in entrance of Atatürk’s portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey first president stood for.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet's headquarters, in front of Atatürk's portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey's first president stood for.

Murat Sabuncu in Cumhuriyet’s headquarters, in entrance of Atatürk’s portrait. The newspaper defends the secularism and democracy Turkey’s first president stood for. Credit score: Christopher Shand


As a half of the authorities’s response to the 2016 ’coup d’état’ the media in Turkey have suffered from shut-downs and the arrest of journalists. What precisely are the accusations that the authorities has made towards the media? And what’s the nature of the proof to help these accusations?

Each time its democracy was interrupted, Turkish intellectuals have paid the worth, with journalists taking first place. This course of was at work throughout previous army coups, and it’s now happening underneath the present AKP authorities, which has elevated its strain in current years. Recently, a number of journalists have been arrested, charged and convicted for being members of a terrorist group or of serving to organizations related to terror. Proof varies from case to case, however all of them have in widespread their involvement in the communication of “news stories, articles or social media posts”. As a journalist, I’m appalled and saddened that correct reporting of “news” must be thought-about as constituting a “crime”.

Moreover, the costs have been proven to be unfounded. As a entire, our newspaper was incriminated for having “supported every terrorist organization in Turkey”. All the things personal, our belongings, our homes, our financial institution accounts (our personal but in addition these of our companions or ex-partners over the earlier 30 years) have been managed. In fact, the authorities discovered nothing that was incriminating.

To offer you an instance, one of the costs levelled towards our columnist Hakan Kara and cartoonist Musa Kart was that of having telephoned the ETS Tour company to e-book holidays. It turned out that this firm was underneath investigation for hyperlinks with the Gülenist group, former allies of the authorities and now held liable for the coup try. As a consequence, the phone name was used to incriminate the two journalists.

Are there any points of the course of that distinguish the case of Cumhuriyet from that of different press retailers?

Once I appeared for the first time in courtroom after 9 months of imprisonment, I started my plea as follows: « What an fascinating and tragic coincidence it’s that at present is Press Freedom Day in my nation. As the editor-in-chief of a century-old newspaper, I’m pained to need to be defending journalism and newscasting on such a day, however not for my private imprisonment. »

After that plea, I remained imprisoned for an additional 9 months. In April of this yr, I used to be sentenced to 7½ years in jail. If the Supreme Courtroom approves the sentence, I’ll spend three extra years in jail. Nevertheless, there are lots of journalists who have been tortured, imprisoned or assassinated at totally different durations in Cumhuriyet’s historical past.

Maybe what distinguishes Cumhuriyet from different information retailers in Turkey is our willpower to inform solely the fact, regardless of how troublesome the circumstances.  Now we’re paying the worth for doing that, simply as we’ve in every earlier, non-democratic period.

Do the authorities need to make an instance of you in order to intimidate any unbiased investigation media?

With out false modesty, Cumhuriyet is probably Turkey’s most influential newspaper. Overseas and home ambassadors, politicians or journalists regard it as the most impartial and enlightened medium outlet right here. They learn it to be told on what is actually occurring. Because it all the time defends democracy and freedom, it’s de facto perceived as an opponent to any celebration violating these values.

Consequently, it’s logical that an anti-democratic and intolerant authority will need to stifle such a journal.  As occurred for instance with Hürriyet, one other newspaper which was financially sanctioned for a whereas, then purchased by a mogul near the president such that its reporting is now aligned with that of authorities opinion.

Nevertheless, there are nonetheless many unbiased media in Turkey. Though much less influent, some like Evrensel and Birgun stay necessary. However with the present financial disaster, Cumhuriyet finally ends up by being the just one capable of cowl sure tales, like the 700th gathering of the ‘Saturday mothers’, households of individuals who forcibly disappeared after the army coup in 1980.

Some would say that Cumhuriyet retains robust hyperlinks with political events, threatening its neutrality?

Ahmet Şık, with whom I shared my jail cell, one of our most important investigative journalists, has simply joined the Peoples’ Democratic Get together (HDP), which is left-wing and pro-minority. So long as he labored for Cumhuriyet, he did in order a journalist, and solely as a journalist. As quickly as he introduced his choice to interact himself politically, we instantly stopped his collaboration with us simply as we had accomplished with one other of our correspondents in Ankara proper after he joined the CHP, Turkey’s important opposition celebration.

Little question they gained’t be the solely journalists to interact themselves politically in Cumhuriyet’s historical past, as can occur with another media organisations. However I refute the accusation of Cumhuriyet as possessing any political affiliation.

Going again to the trials that lasted from July 2017 to April 2018, on what foundation have you ever lodged your attraction?

We describe what information reviews we conveyed. We argue the case that journalism shouldn’t be thought-about as a felony exercise. We state that the expenses are an try and intimidate journalism via us.

Is there any distinction between the foundation of your attraction and that of your colleagues?

I’ve not learn the appeals of others. However I’ve all the time stated the similar factor since the first day. We don’t need freedom and the supply of rights only for ourselves. We demand that everybody be judged independently, on a degree the place the rules are dominant, not the individuals. There are nonetheless journalists, legal professionals, deputies, and rights advocates in prisons. We have been fortunate to be from Cumhuriyet newspaper. However many individuals, unknown and unmentioned, are nonetheless in jail just for their opinions. We would like everybody to profit from our nation’s legal guidelines.

What parts do you think about may affect the consequence of your attraction(s)?

On September ninth, it’s six months since I left jail. Since then, I’ve been working at the newspaper daily, weekends included. Neither the sentence I used to be given nor the courtroom’s upcoming choice crosses my thoughts. I do my job. I do it with love. The attraction isn’t my drawback. It’s the drawback of my nation. I’ll bow to the will of my readers and of democracy, to not that of a few highly effective males. I gained’t depart the nation out of worry however will stay amongst my fellow residents.

Are we to be a nation that believes in the rule of regulation, or are we going to create traitors in every period, to take advantage of them for political ends? Those that sentenced us know very properly that we’re solely newsmen, individuals engaged in journalism for 30 to 60 years in this land. In any case, Historical past will make its personal judgement.

What do you see as being the key factors that describe the present state of your journal/the media in common inside Turkey?

Ninety-five per cent of the media in Turkey is underneath authorities management. There are 2-Three newspapers, together with Cumhuriyet, Four-5 information web sites and a few TV channels that proceed to withstand. The worth of resistance is to both lose one’s freedom or go bankrupt as a result of advertisers worry the authorities. However information is a necessity. True and correct information is indispensable for any actual democracy. So, the media will ultimately create a mannequin in which it will probably breathe extra simply.

I wanted to cross a robust safety barrier to enter your constructing. Is that associated?

It’s. Defying the authorities can create many enemies. However we particularly needed to undertake strict safety precautions after we revealed the Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in 2015.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of the Press inside Turkey over the speedy future?

I’ve no fears, however I do have a large amount of hope, as a result of there’s a majority of younger individuals believing in democracy for my nation. There could be no room for worry if my nation is to see happier days, when nobody is alienated and the rule of regulation is revered. Hope and wrestle are wanted.

How do you think about that the present financial difficulties in Turkey may affect the state of affairs of the press?

The Turkish press should purchase its paper from overseas. Now each paper costs have elevated, and the lira has misplaced worth. An already troublesome financial sustainability has turn into much more troublesome. The information web sites and TV channels lose business help if they don’t seem to be near the authorities. The financial disaster will make circumstances much more difficult.

Past the present financial disaster, Cumhuriyet itself is affected by an advertisers’ embargo for worry of potential authorities retaliation. We have now virtually no promoting income proper now and our gross sales have dropped to roughly 40,000 copies/day, though 1.Three million individuals nonetheless check-out our net pages every single day.

Do you think about that the present state of affairs of the Press will change now that the ‘state of emergency’ is being terminated?

Turkey is in a perpetual state of emergency. Nothing has modified in phrases of freedom. However this isn’t restricted to my nation. The entire world goes by way of a disaster as a result of of the actions of autocratic leaders comparable to Trump, Putin, Orban… However are others so harmless? What about the European leaders negotiating over the lot of immigrants, every of whom is a human life? Solely the individuals and people who attempt to uphold freedom will change the world for higher. Don’t anticipate this to return via the politicians.

Do you see the present state of affairs as being a systemic sickness in the state of Turkey or the outcome of particular person political selections?

Each are true. Democracy has by no means functioned absolutely in Turkey. Each political interval and authorities carried out its personal witch-hunt. Now we’re going by way of such a time. However it’s also a incontrovertible fact that the most up-to-date years are amongst the most oppressive that Turkish democracy has needed to stand up to.

What elements do you assume influenced most the consequence of the current elections inside Turkey, ensuing in the affirmation of the present authorities?

It resulted from a number of weaknesses inside the opposition. One other level was a lack of technique from the opposition CHP, the social-democratic get together’s most sensible candidate making an attempt unsuccessfully to mimic Erdogan’s fashion and populism. Why would Turkish individuals have chosen one other get together with comparable rhetoric and elegance?

Do you consider that the present authorities might enhance the place of the press inside Turkey and even the nation as a entire inside the present political set-up

I’ve sufficient expertise to know that it’s mistaken to anticipate change from the authorities alone. The general public should embrace freedom by partaking in civil society organizations, by getting into politics, and expressing extra of their democratic calls for. The state of affairs of the opposition events is taking the nation to an much more troublesome stage. We’ll see new political entities and leaders in the upcoming interval.

What do you contemplate that the Proper Livelihood Award may need/has finished to vary the state of affairs of your self and press colleagues in your predicament?

Once we came upon that we’d acquired the award, we have been nonetheless at liberty. We felt so proud. We arrange a delegation, which included me, to obtain the award. Then we have been arrested and unable to journey. Orhan Erinc, the president of the Cumhuriyet basis, was additionally underneath a journey ban and so he couldn’t make it both. Whereas in jail, I learn the message he despatched by way of Zeynep Oral in the newspaper. Someplace he stated:

The editorial rules, set out by our founder and first lead writer Yunus Nadi in Cumhuriyet’s first concern revealed on Might 7, 1924, are discovered in the preamble to the Official Deed of the Basis: “Cumhuriyet is an independent newspaper; it is the defender of nothing but the Republic, of democracy in the scientific and broad sense. It will fight every force that tries to overthrow the Republic and the notion and principles of democracy. It will endeavour for the embracing by society of the principle of secularism along the path of ‘Enlightenment’ ushered in by Ataturk’s revolution and principles. Cumhuriyet, which adopts the “Declaration of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms” as the common structure of democracy, deems by method of primary precept that its objectives might solely be attained inside the independence and integrity of the Republic of Turkey established by Atatürk.” 

We’ll proceed our wrestle to maintain these rules alive. The award gave us power to take action.


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