Bila takes helm as editor-in-chief at Hürriyet
Hürriyet Chairwoman Vuslat Doğan Sabancı speaks at a handover ceremony held in the newspaper headquarters in Istanbul as new Hürriyet editor-in-chief Fikret Bila (L) and his predecessor, Sedat Ergin (R) look on.Experienced journalist and columnist Fikret Bila has taken the helm as the editor-in-chief of Hürriyet, the largest daily newspaper in the country, from Sedat Ergin, who said he would return to writing columns because he was tired.
“Hürriyet is a newspaper read by people from all walks of life,” said Hürriyet Chairperson Vuslat Doğan Sabancı at a takeover ceremony held at the newspaper’s headquarters in Istanbul on March 1.
“We have no concern other than journalism. Our independence is our main assurance,” she said, adding that Ergin managed the newspaper in difficult times and that Bila would take it a step further.
“The editorial policy of Hürriyet is well-established, as well as our professional ethics principles,” Doğan Sabancı added.
“Hürriyet will carry the flag of journalism … further under the leadership of Fikret Bila,” Doğan Sabancı said, adding that “a new era is beginning.”
“This is a handover not only between two experienced journalists but two friends,” Doğan Sabancı said.
Ergin “is a person who undertook responsibility for two-and-a-half years probably during the hardest times for Hürriyet,” she said, praising him for his investigative journalism work.
“Bila has also been working as a journalist for 35 years, 25 of which has been with the Doğan Group,” Doğan Sabancı said.
Taking over the helm at Hürriyet “is a big honor,” Bila said.
“Hürriyet is a source of reference not for only its readers but also scientists, the culture world and diplomats. This is why it is the flagship of the Turkish press,” he said.
Citing French journalist Hubert Beuve-Méry’s theory of contact and distance, Bila emphasized journalists’ need to keep their distance with the source of news.
“These basic criteria have been expressed in the Doğan Publishing Principles. Free and independent journalism is the basic philosophy under the Doğan Publishing Principles as an essential part of democracy,” he said.
Taking the seat from Ergin is “particularly important for me,” Bila said.
“We both started the profession during the 1970s – an era of turbulence in the country. We ran after news as two young, passionate journalists in difficult years in Ankara,” he said, adding that they worked as both colleagues and rivals at the same time.
Born in 1958 in the Black Sea province of Zonguldak, Bila began the profession in 1977. He served as the Ankara representative of daily Milliyet for 18 years. He started writing columns for Hürriyet and Hürriyet Daily News six months ago. He is the author of six political books and holds a PhD in journalism.
Ergin, for his part, noted the difficulties that the country has faced during his post as chief editor.
“Sailing on calm water is an ideal thing for a captain. However, we have been in a storm,” he said.
“I have been working closely with the Doğan family since 1994. I have witnessed the big price that the family has paid and the problems it has faced for the last 10 years to keep an independent publishing group standing and have it improve on an independent line,” Ergin said.
Hürriyet has a “contract of hearts” with society, Ergin said. “The biggest thing in this contract is the love for Turkey.”
Ergin will restart his columns in Hürriyet in the wake of the change.
“There are dozens of indictments waiting for me following the July 15 [the coup attempt in 2016]. I am excited to focus on these indictments,” he said.