Cumhuriyet: The ultimate test
For our international readers and viewers, here is the snapshot of what Cumhuriyet Newspaper means. It is the holy grail of Turkey’s journalism. It is the “école supérieure” of newspaper making.
It is where every journalist or TV reporter wants to see his/her byline one day. It was the pride one felt while carrying the paper in your hand in the conservative and fascist days before the 1980 coup. It is the ultimate test for Turkey’s liberals, secularists, Kurds and, of course, the rich and the wealthy.
The AK Party’s latest move to detain 15 journalists and managers of Cumhuriyet is a shot in the foot for itself. Let us be clear, Cumhuriyet’s sheer presence makes Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu say things like “Of course there is a media that criticizes us, like Cumhuriyet, like CNN Türk.” He said this in the European Parliament. Cumhuriyet is the sole platform that balances government criticism with numbers and facts. It is the only media outlet that dares (and spends money) to send reporters both to burnt-down and vacated neighborhoods in Southeast Turkey and to the Euphrates Shield Operation inside Syria. It is the only newspaper that has 17 women columnists like Çiğdem Toker, Şükran Soner, Mine Söğüt, Özlem Yuzak, Ceyda Karan, Aslı Aydıntaşbaş, even two on the sports page. You get the picture. Cumhuriyet is where Turkey wants to be.
Its tough headlines raises eyebrows, but it never gets a blasphemy court order, because unlike the pro-AK Party papers, it is run by real journalists, who know when not to cross that red line. Yes, they are tested by fire every single day. And sadly, Turkey’s businesspeople are not as bold as our colleagues at Cumhuriyet. This paper depends on its readers and very few advertisers to survive. Again, unlike pro-AK Party papers, it does not get pages and pages of real estate projects or government ads. Turkey’s car-selling, auction-going bourgeoisie invites Cumhuriyet reporters to all of their “press conferences,” gives interviews every now and then, but never ever buys advertising space in the outlet for fear of reprisal from the AK Party government.
Yes, this is how chicken Turkey’s rich are. But are we surprised? Not one bit. They were just like this nine years ago when the bombs hit Cumhuriyet and the Ergenekon arrests began.
So it is up to us, journalists, students, academics, women, Kurds and leftists – “the outsiders” – to be exact. It is our turn to claim our stake and create a tsunami of readers for the paper of our childhood and youth. It is our turn to prove that “Cumhuriyet” is more than a name, that it is the true voice of Turkey’s progressives, that it is run and written and edited by real journalists and forever will be. It is where all of us will go and work for free when we are all retired.
Cumhuriyet is where I started my career when I was a rookie, student reporter from Atlanta. They allowed me to write Sunday articles from America’s Deep South and a couple of years later from Washington DC. Murat Sabuncu, Kadri Gürsel and Musa Kart are more than names. They are my colleagues, my editors. Cumhuriyet is the paper that shaped me to be who I am.
Cumhuriyet is our Sarajevo. And it will not fail.