EXPLAINED: Police raid over Charlie Hebdo’s Turkish version

EXPLAINED: Police raid over Charlie Hebdo’s Turkish version

EXPLAINED: Police raid over Charlie Hebdo’s Turkish version

Two pages from Turkish daily Cumhuriyet's Charlie Hebdo selection.

1) What exactly did Turkish daily Cumhuriyet publish?

As a supplement, Cumhuriyet published a selection from Charlie Hebdo’s much-anticipated Jan. 14 issue in support of free speech. On its front page, the newspaper stressed that it “compiled the selection by respecting religious sensitivities and the freedom of belief,” as well as its own publishing principles that reject ethnic and religious discrimination. As a result, the cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad in the original French issue of Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 14 did not appear in the supplement, or on the front page of Cumhuriyet, due to these “sensitivities.”

2) So why all the fuss?

EXPLAINED: Police raid over Charlie Hebdo’s Turkish version

Photos of the two Cumhuriyet columnists were featured on the website of the pro-government daily Yeni Şafak, accompanying a damning article about the Charlie Hebdo issue.

Ceyda Karan and Hikmet Çetinkaya, two columnists of Cumhuriyet, decided to publish the original Charlie Hebdo cover depicting the Prophet Muhammad in their columns inside the main newspaper.

Police were mobilized at midnight when it was still not clear which Charlie Hebdo content Cumhuriyet would publish, or where. While the initial social media storm after midnight targeted the newspaper as a whole, the focus of online threats and stories in pro-government newspapers targeting them turned to the two columnists later in the morning.

3) How did the police raid unfold?

Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Utku Çakırözer told CNN Türk that a press prosecutor, who ordered the police raid, checked the content of the newspaper just before the trucks left the printing center to distribute the issue.

“It took 40 minutes. Then they saw there was nothing illegal in the content and allowed the trucks out to distribute our newspaper,” Çakırözer said. The continued presence of police in front of the Cumhuriyet HQ in Istanbul, on the other hand, was aimed at protecting the newspaper against possible attacks. 

4) So, you can legally publish Prophet Muhammad cartoons inside newspapers in Turkey, but not on front pages?

Not exactly. Although the prosecutor did not stop the distribution of Cumhuriyet in the early morning, a local court in the afternoon ordered the blocking of access to pages on websites publishing the French cover. Cumhuriyet is expected to remove the cover from the pages of its two columnists once it is officially notified of the court order. None of Cumhuriyet’s columnists’ pages were accessible in the afternoon, for reasons as yet unknown.

EXPLAINED: Police raid over Charlie Hebdo’s Turkish version

Three Islamist protesters, who came to the headquarters of Cumhuriyet separately throughout the day, have been arrested.

5) What will happen now?

Tension is rising, though Turkish authorities have yet to issue the “messages of common sense” that Çakırözer had publicly voiced hope for. Although Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu himself participated in the march to support free speech following the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris on Jan. 11, his deputy Yalçın Akdoğan accused Cumhuriyet of “open provocation” for its support to the French magazine Jan. 14. Minutes after Akdoğan’s message, a group called the Muslim Anatolian Youth openly urged its supporters to attack Cumhuriyet. The newspaper itself featured the threats as its headline story in the evening.