Explained: How assault on prominent journalist threatens press freedom in Turkey

Explained: How assault on prominent journalist threatens press freedom in Turkey

Explained: How assault on prominent journalist threatens press freedom in Turkey

The perpetrators attacked Hakan in front of his home early Oct. 1 after following his car for kilometers from the CNNTürk studios where the journalist had presented his evening program.

1) What happened to Ahmet Hakan?

Ahmet Hakan, one of the most prominent journalists in Turkey, writes columns for daily Hürriyet and hosts a political debate program on CNNTürk television. Both outlets are owned by Doğan, Turkey’s largest media group.

Four men, arriving in a black Honda at 12:35 a.m. on Oct. 1, attacked Hakan in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı neighborhood as he was returning home after hosting his television program. They attacked him, leaving him with a broken nose and ribs before escaping. (Click here for the full story)

2) Who are the perpetrators?

The four suspects, including two ex-convicts convinced of drug-, arms- and threat-related crimes, were detained soon after the attack. Two of them were also revealed as members of the Justice and Development Party (AKP). The party announced on Oct. 2 that three of the men were AKP members and that they were expelled. Three more suspects were later detained.

Suspects reportedly claimed in their initial testimonies that the attack was the result of a road rage incident involving Hakan. However, the testimonies were contradicted by footage from Doğan Media Center security cameras, which showed the perpetrators beginning to follow Hakan’s car as he left the CNNTürk studios after presenting his evening program. It was also revealed that they were previously spotted in local shops frequented by Hakan. (Click here for the full story)

The court arrested only one suspect on Oct. 4, while releasing six others. 

Suspects confessed on Oct. 5 that a former police officer offered them 100,000 Turkish Liras to attack the journalist.

3) Why is the government being blamed?

As Turkey’s national press bodies, as well as foreign officials, including the U.S. State Department, and the International Press Institute (IPI), highlighted, the attack targeting Hakan is part of a wider lynch campaign to intimidate Doğan Media and its journalists.

Hürriyet’s headquarters in Istanbul were attacked by pro-AKP protesters on Sept. 6, while AKP MP Abdurrahim Boynukalın was filmed threatening both Hakan and Hürriyet Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin.

After President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu failed to condemn the attacks, another group assaulted the Hürriyet building on Sept. 8.

All suspects were soon released, and authorities ignored Hakan’s request for a permanent bodyguard, despite death threats in pro-government media over his critical views about the AKP. Instead, a prosecutor launched an anti-terror probe into Doğan based on a widely derided front page in a pro-government tabloid.

Explained: How assault on prominent journalist threatens press freedom in Turkey

4) How are Turkish politicians reacting now?

Although President Erdoğan omitted any word of condemnation in his speech during the first autumn session of Turkey’s parliament on Oct. 1, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and a number of AKP officials, albeit in guarded remarks, criticized the latest attack. Boynukalın, who had previously complained about “not beating” Hakan and Ergin in the past, now says he is against violence.

The opposition parties represented in the parliament, on the other hand, dubbed the latest attack as “an intimidation” for all the press in the country, questioning whether the government planned to take any measures against deteriorating conditions for the media and rising attacks in the run-up to the Nov. 1 elections.

Republican People's Party (CHP) chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized Erdoğan, Davutoğlu and the AKP over their stance amid attacks targeting the media.

5) Could the attacks intimidate daily Hürriyet?

Aydın Doğan, the founder and honorary chairman of Doğan Holding, Hürriyet Chairwoman Vuslat Doğan Sabancı, Editor-in-Chief Ergin and its journalists have consistently voiced their determination to continue an independent editorial line in the face of the increasing political pressure and physical attacks. 

After he was discharged from the hospital, Hakan, too, conveyed a message to the public via Ergin on Oct. 1: “Such attacks will never intimidate us. We are not afraid. We will continue walking on the path that we know is right.”

Turkey's leading business people have also raised their voice for press freedom amid recent attacks on the media and journalists.