Columnists fired as daily Akşam gets new chief

Columnists fired as daily Akşam gets new chief

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Columnists fired as daily Akşam gets new chief

The newly appointed editor, Mehmet Ocaktan, worked as a journalist before joining the ruling AKP as an MP in 2007.

At least four columnists have been fired so far from daily Akşam, days after former Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy Mehmet Ocaktan was assigned as new editor-in-chief following the state’s purchase of the heavily indebted publication.

Ocaktan replaced the previous editor İsmail Kuçukkaya, who had been in charge of the daily for the past five-and-a-half years, after the state-run Savings Deposit and Insurance Fund (TMSF) seized the publication due to public debt.

The first figures discharged by the new executive board were journalists Tuğçe Tatari and Sevim Gözay, and both reporters took to Twitter to announce the decision after six years of working for the daily.

The publication also refused to publish a final "farewell" article by Tatari, which she responded to by posting the piece online. She said she had been fired without any justification provided to her, and added that she was now a member of “the parade of journalists who have been victimized by the government.”

Her recent columns had focused on the targeting by government figures of actor Mehmet Ali Alabora, who was vocal in his support for the recent Gezi protests, and the Divan Hotel, which opened its doors to protesters during police interventions. She also criticized the excessive use of tear gas by the Turkish police. 

The fallout continued with Akşam columnists Gürkan Hacır and Hüsnü Mahalli, who both announced via Twitter that they had also been fired.

Hacır penned a column on June 29 in support of the much-debated Dolmabahçe mosque’s muezzin, Fuat Yıldırım, who has repeatedly denied allegations that alcohol was consumed in the mosque when protesters took refuge inside.

The column quoted Yıldırım’s denial of the allegations, which have been repeated in several speeches by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as his rejection of any accusation of “immoral behavior” taking place within the mosque. Hacır also mentioned the muezzin’s six-hour interrogation by a counter-terrorism squad, in which he stated: “I am a man of religion. I do not lie.”

Mahalli’s relationship with the daily has also been ended after the recent changes. Mahalli had been known for his columns targeting the AKP policies on Syria, the situation in the Middle East, and the involvement of the United States in regional affairs. He also announced his firing over Twitter.

Columnist Deniz Ülke Arıboğan has also taken a break from penning pieces for the daily, stating that she wished to “prevent repetition of one’s self and consume everything.” Nihal Kemaloğlu also quit writing for the daily after Ocaktan’s appointment. 

The number of journalists fired from Akşam is expected to increase, a source told the Hürriyet Daily News. 

The newly appointed Ocaktan, who worked as a journalist before joining the Justice and Development Party (AKP) as a deputy, returned to work in the media in 2011.