Ahmet is gone, but I’m so happy…
I don’t know why the Ahmet-Yasemin duo and their friends quit, but that does not matter to me anyway. What is important is that a wonderful era from a journalistic aspect has been closed.
I remember the first days that daily Taraf first started publishing.
The hardened media teams had only a condescending smile for them. Those who said, “Well, somebody is again going to lose money,” were in the majority. Ahmet Altan was treated as just a man of letters who had a passion for journalism.
Afterwards, bombs started exploding one after the other.
They started publishing documents that no other journalist would dare to publish, including me. The activities of the deep state and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) that had nothing to do with their true duties were disclosed one after the other. Taraf was thus playing a leading role in the closure of an era.
Ahmet Altan, with his incredibly subtle pen, wrote poison-pen articles and, together with Yasemin Çongar, was supporting every revolutionary step of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government - from Cyprus to Ergenekon. A team outside the established structure - such as we were not used to seeing - had been formed that had nothing to answer for, that did not bid for government tenders, and that had nothing to do with similar business. In the eyes of the conventional media they had come from Mars with a secret mission.
This much courage and freedom were not good for us
Ahmet, with his extremely subtle pen, with his extensive background knowledge, wrote magnificent articles. He gave the best examples of how a writer would write daily columns. Yes, he had a big ego. No, he could never be wrong. Yes, he was condescending. But he was qualified, well-informed, courageous and different.
With this stance, daily Taraf shook the former state structure and played an extremely important role in its fracturing. It had a vital role in the ending of the military regime.
I remember what the extreme nationalists were saying in those days:
“Who are they serving?”
“Now they have the opportunity they are trying to destroy the Republic…”
“They are definitely from the Fethullah Gülen community. Their sources are being given to them by the community anyway. The secret owners of the paper are Fethullah followers.”
“The CIA is giving a lesson to the TSK this way.”
I personally witnessed these debates. Those who now applaud Ahmet Altan and his team described them as traitors in those days, while the conservative section treated them as heroes.
It was obvious in those days that the secular section of society was not able to digest and bear this paper produced by Ahmet and his friends. Then, water passed under the bridge.
Especially after the 2011 general elections, after certain changes in the prime minister’s stance, Ahmet Altan started criticizing the AK Party government. With sharp articles that made every reader jump in his or her seat he turned his arrows on the prime minister. This time, the nationalists started applauding; the conservatives started seeing Taraf as a traitor.
As a matter of fact, this society has demonstrated that it does not like criticism. It has demonstrated that it is not in our culture to accept that every criticism has a true side to it and that no matter how tough and merciless the critic may be, they have to be tolerated.
From time to time daily Taraf had its “offensiveness.” They published some documents without checking whether they were true or not. It was later found that some of them were false. Nevertheless, with all their positives and negatives, the Ahmet Altan-Yasemin Çongar duo gave all of us a lesson in how to be a free media.