A call to Hürriyet readers

A call to Hürriyet readers

Our profession has more than one definition. Every journalist, depending on where they stand and depending on their viewpoint, adopts one of these definitions. What suits my own journalism perspective is George Orwell’s definition: “Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

Throughout my professional life, whenever people have reacted against what I wrote, I have always remembered Orwell’s definition. 

I have nothing to say about objections to mistakes, but generally objections are made against writing the truth. Not only individuals, but almost all power groups want their own narrative to be conveyed to society. They are bothered when the absolute truth is conveyed to society. Instead, they want newspapers to write exactly what they tell them without questioning or researching.  

This is what has happened to daily Hürriyet. The problem is not about writing truths or untruths; the problem is not practicing journalism the way political powers want us to. The problem is the persistence of Hürriyet on the path of independent journalism, instead of simply being the spokesperson of the ruling party. 

Let’s not forget that we did not come to these days overnight. This government’s approach to the press and freedom of expression has been problematic from day one. Instead of removing the current obstacles to freedom of the press, they have divided the media into “my side” and “not my side.” While they got hold of a share of the media, they gave a hard time to those that wanted to stay independent. The Doğan Media Group - especially its daily Hürriyet - are among the media organs that they targeted with all kinds of weapons, from tax fines to judicial threats and accreditation bans. 

Erdoğan has personally and repeatedly targeted Hürriyet executives, writers and stories - starting from Doğan Holding Honorary Chair Aydın Doğan. He blasted them at political rallies. In the period up to the June 7 elections these accusations got more and more intense. The pro-government media also started a baseless slander campaign against Hürriyet and its writers. The physical attacks against Hürriyet on Sept. 6 and 8 bear the features of a continuation of this process. 

The reason for the attacks is not the coverage of a story in this or that way. The story that was the target of accusations by Erdoğan, and which was used as an excuse for the attacks on Hürriyet offices, was headlined “President Erdoğan’s #Dağlıca statement: “If 400 deputies were given, these things would not have happened.” This story was not incorrect; its connection was wrongly constructed. 

Erdoğan made the statement in question sentence within the framework that “a new constitution could have been written and the environment of chaos and terror since June 7 would not have happened.” I examined our story on this statement and drew certain conclusions. But it still continues to be written and said that the story was entirely wrong. My correcting of the mistake is not enough for them.

This shows that what made them so angry in the first place was not the mistake in the story but the story itself. In more straightforward words, they are angry that all pages of this newspaper, which is defined as a flagship of the media in Turkey, are not filled with stories that the government will enjoy and the newspaper does not contribute to the government’s efforts on political engineering.

In short, the aim of the persistent attacks is to restrict Hürriyet readers’ right to access information. For this reason, it is not enough only for Hürriyet’s owners and executives to not take a step back. Hürriyet readers must also defend their newspapers and their right to be informed.  

As any newspaper, Hürriyet also takes its strength from its readers. It can stand firm in stormy weathers from the strength it gets from its readers. Among Hürriyet readers, there may be those who are angry with it and who criticize it for various reasons. They are right. Indeed, this paper has made some mistakes in the past. But what is important is that newspapers, just like people, draw lessons from their past mistakes and have the courage to face their mistakes.

Those who are regular readers of this column, the ombudsperson’s corner, would know how frequently I criticize the mistakes in this paper. The fact that I am able to criticize Hürriyet, in the pages of Hürriyet, should be one of the concrete indicators of this paper’s courage to face its mistakes. If Hürriyet did not have the confidence based on its ability for self-criticism, it would not be able to start the campaign “Against terror of all kinds” #Hürriyetbenim (“Hürriyet is mine,” “Hürriyet” meaning “freedom” in Turkish), asking its readers to support their paper. Now is the time for readers to also defend Hürriyet and defend their freedom to be informed.