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Slain journalist buried in Istanbul

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 12/20/2009 12:00:00 AM |

At an Istanbul funeral for a slain journalist, members of the media said the killing showed journalists in small towns are more vulnerable than big-city colleagues.

At a funeral held Sunday in Istanbul for a slain journalist, media representatives said the killing again showed journalists in small towns are more vulnerable than those in big cities.

Cihan Hayırsevener, the editor of Güney Marmara’da Yaşam, was walking to his office in Bandırma in Balıkesir province shortly after 3 p.m. Friday when he was shot in the leg three times by an unidentified person on Atatürk Avenue.

The gunman escaped in a vehicle immediately following the shooting, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Hayırsevener was known to have received death threats related to his coverage of a local corruption case. İhsan Kuruoğlu, the founder of another local paper in the same town is currently under arrest, together with his son and brother, for irregularities on a tender made by the local municipality.

>> Click for the "Remembering slain journalist Cihan Hayırsevener" photo gallery

“All we did was report on the operation of Balıkesir’s police department. Then we were subjected to a smear campaign,” said Güney Marmara’da Yaşam’s editor, Ümit Babacan, during the funeral in Istanbul.

“We are in deep sorrow. And our sorrow grows even larger as the killers are still at large,” said Celal Toprak, a representative of an Istanbul-based journalists’ association who also attended the funeral.

“This assassination has shown once more the harsh conditions under which journalists are working,” said Toprak, the secretary-general of the Turkish Journalists Association, or TGC.

Local journalists are open targets for “local forces,” Toprak told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. “They are more defenseless. We should have stronger journalists’ associations in small towns.”

Hayırsevener founded the Bandırma paper nine years ago and had been writing about the town’s problems. His paper gave extensive coverage to the arrests made by Balıkesir’s police two-and-a-half months ago, the Doğan news agency reported Saturday. However, the paper was accused of one-sided reporting by the rival newspaper of Kuruoğlu, who was in jail at the time.

“They started to threaten us after we covered the operations. And now this is what happened. There is a triangle between the state, the mafia and the media. This needs to be stopped,” Babacan told the Doğan news agency.

A well-informed source in Bandırma refused to talk to Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review even on condition of anonymity, reflecting the climate of fear in the port city.

Hayırsevener, who is survived by his wife and two children, was shot in the leg, but one of the bullets hit an artery, causing him to lose a significant amount of blood. His heart stopped several times in the ambulance to Bandırma State Hospital, but emergency medical staff revived him. He was later transferred to Bursa Hospital, where he died.

“My father lost his life for Bandırma,” his daughter, Gaye, said at a ceremony held Saturday in front of the newspaper’s offices. “You should do your utmost to find those responsible.”

The local police force said the investigation is continuing, according to the Doğan news agency.

“He worked until his last breath with the same enthusiasm,” said journalist Pınar Sungur, who had known Hayırsevener since her childhood, as her father had been a close friend of the slain editor.

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