Turbulence in Turkish media continues with new changes, resignations

In the face of increasing government pressure and involvement in the Turkish media, changes continue to take place as the editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily and a critical columnist from Habertürk quit on Wednesday.

İbrahim Yıldız, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, one of the oldest dailies in Turkey and which has a secular ditorial line, left his position with a farewell message he sent to the employees of the newspaper.

Describing his departure from the position as a transfer of the baton in a relay race, Yıldız did not cite a reason for quitting his job as editor-in-chief. Yıldız has been working for Cumhuriyet for the last 34 years, 21 of which as manager of the newsroom.

After Yıldız’s resignation, journalist Utku Çakırözer was named the new editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet daily.

In a recent series of changes that have taken place within Cumhuriyet, journalist Murat Sabuncu was appointed coordinating editor while journalist Ceyda Karan had become the diplomacy editor of the newspaper.

Journalists such as Aydın Engin, Özgür Mumcu and Ahmet Şık have been among others who have joined the Cumhuriyet team recently.

The departure of its editor-in-chief was announced on the Cumhuriyet website.

On Wednesday, columnist Yavuz Semerci who has been pursuing a different approach from the editorial line of his newspaper Habertürk, also announced that he was quitting his job as a columnist at the daily, but will continue to contribute to the economy section.

Stating that he has been writing columns at Habertürk for the last five years, Semerci said that due to the turmoil Turkey has been going through recently, the views of a columnist are perceived as the view of the owner of the newspaper more than the columnist himself. Semerci stated in his last column at Habertürk that this is a heavy burden that he is not willing to carry. However, he noted that he is not tying his decision to quit to government pressure or censorship.

Habertürk is owned by a leading businessman, Turgay Ciner, who has businesses in areas other than media, such as mining. In the run-up to the elections on March 30, the leaked voice recordings of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed that the government had allegedly placed a liaison in the Ciner Media Group to keep tabs on the content of the news. Talking to a man named “Fatih” on the phone and giving him instructions, Erdoğan placed pressure on Habertürk daily and TV.

In reference to those leaked recordings, Semerci said that he has been categorized as an enemy by the government. He said that even before the corruption probe broke and he became vocal about it, he attempted to part ways with the newspaper because of his critical stance against the government during the Gezi protests in June 2013. Semerci said that Ciner did not accept his resignation during Gezi and after the corruption probe in December, but his last attempt has been accepted on the condition that he continue to contribute to the newspaper in his field, economy.

In the meantime, the Habertürk TV station sacked journalist Zafer Arapkirli, who announced his dismissal on his Facebook page with a message saying: “Habertürk TV has decided to stop working with me. I haven’t even asked the reason why. Such things happen in our business. It is not the first and it won’t be the last.”

In a related development, a pro-government columnist, Gülay Göktürk, decided to quit her job at the Bugün daily, citing differences with the editorial line of the newspaper. She thanked Editor-in-Chief Erhan Başyurt and Akın İpek, the owner of the newspaper, for not interfering with any of her columns during her tenure at Bugün.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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