A plea for press freedom in Turkey | Books | DW | 15.11.2016
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A plea for press freedom in Turkey

Today, Deutsche Welle is publishing this text from the Turkish newspaper "Cumhuriyet," together with 40 other German print and online media providers. It is an expression of solidarity on Writers in Prison Day.

'Cumhuriyet' forever:

"I am an old employee of 'Cumhuriyet.' I've brought flowers to boost moral," he said. He quietly passed out carnations and disappeared.

Meanwhile, the headquarters of the newspaper "Cumhuriyet" in the Istanbul district of Şişli is buzzing like a beehive. It's November 2, 2016, the third day after 13 of our journalists and managers were arrested. We employees are trying to stay calm and relaxed. Our job is to publish a newspaper. We have no alternative but to do what we were trained to do. "Cumhuriyet" is a newspaper and journalists work here.

What happened?

Everything began on the morning of October 31, 2016, when our editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu called. At 7:00 a.m. he rang and said, "They are taking me away." They arrested Sabuncu. At the same time, our journalists and managers Aydın Engin, Hikmet Çetinkaya Hakan Kara, Güray Öz, Bülent Utku, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Bülent Yener, and Günseli Özaltay were taken out of their homes.

Without hesitation, Kadri Gürsel, Musa Kart and Önder Çelik went of their own accord to the police station where they were, of course, arrested.

In addition, the apartment of Orhan Erinç, the chairman of the Cumhuriyet Foundation, was searched. Last Friday, our publisher Akın Atalay, who had been in Germany on business, was arrested when he landed in Turkey.

A 93-year-old newspaper

We employees gathered together immediately in our building. We realized right away that the operation against "Cumhuriyet" hadn't really surprised anyone. Like everyone from the opposition, they wanted to keep "Cumhuriyet" quiet - even though "Cumhuriyet" was just providing news and wasn't part of the opposition. But the political climate has grown harsher under the state of emergency.

Accusations against 'Cumhuriyet'

The reason our friends were arrested was that they were accused of being members of the Gülen organization and the PKK and of having committed crimes in their names. In reality, "Cumhuriyet" is one of the few newspapers that regularly warned of the danger of the Gülen organization infiltrating the police and the justice system, and of taking control of the republic and turning Turkey into an Islamic state.

Furthermore, "Cumhuriyet" is one of the few newspapers that has defended the rights of the Kurds, constantly criticized the PKK, and rejected every form of terror. But now this whole past is being nullified and "Cumhuriyet" is being blamed for everything.

Indicted public prosecutor

But the truth always tends to come to light. There was once again a journalist who discovered that the public prosecutor who was investigating "Cumhuriyet" had been charged in a Gülen case himself.

The fact that a public prosecutor who was charged with being a member of the Gülen organization was leading the investigation should have caused the case against "Cumhuriyet" to fall apart. But the Minister of Justice spoke of a "mishap." The ministry didn't even consider relieving the public prosecutor of his duties.

We just want one thing

We are working with the aim of doing good journalism, and thanks to the strength our supporters give us every day by coming to our newspaper. We just want one thing: press freedom.

We have to be a voice for those who don't have one. We have to report and write down the facts. Our work is difficult; the pressure is enormous; the threats are serious. But nothing will stop us.

The message from our editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, which he sent from prison and which filled our eyes with tears, is the maxim of everyone who works at "Cumhuriyet":

"We will only bow to our people and our readers."

Translated by Timur Tinç, Deniz Yücel and Kate Müser.

 

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