Accurate news, honest newspapers
Tomorrow is a special day for Hürriyet, which will celebrate its 70th anniversary.
Hürriyet was first published on May 1, 1948. It promised its readers that it would “provide accurate news and would be an honest newspaper seeking justice,” walking hand in hand with its readers. Its founder Sedat Simavi wrote in his first editorial that Hürriyet’s main mission is to “promote democracy.”
“We are stepping forward to enroot and protect democracy in our country. We dedicate ourselves to the fact that democracy is the most suitable regime for our country,” Simavi wrote.
“That being said, it is important to emphasize that Hürriyet is not affiliated with any party. It is and will be free. Hürriyet is strong because it relies on its own financial resources. It will therefore not be afraid of offending anyone and will not put in extra effort to make anyone happy,” he added.
“We do not want to make too many promises. We are just here to publish accurate news and be an honest newspaper seeking justice. We would like to walk hand in hand with readers who love the truth and who hate hypocrisy and unfairness. As we agree that a free and independent newspaper is much more useful for our nation than a bureaucratic position, we will not seek any political objective,” Simavi also wrote.
Turkey is a country of rapid transformation. Rapid changes in the fields of ideas and technology, as well as political, social and economic fluctuations, make it difficult for media organizations to be long-term. Today, one of Turkey’s oldest newspapers, Hürriyet, has been able to overcome all these difficulties and is still standing.
This difficult journey was summarized by the metaphor of “stormy sea” in the foreword to the book about Hürriyet, “Amiral Gemisi’nin Seyir Defteri 1948-1998” (The Log of the Flagship 1948-1998), published on the newspaper’s 50th anniversary in 1998.
“When the flagship was moving, the journey did not take place in a quiet sea. The flagship struggled with storms and waves but it did not change its direction. The flagship and its captains have a great responsibility because everybody else determines their route according to it. The smallest mistake could lead to bigger mistake. This ship has guided the entire fleet without compromising on the principles of the republic, without getting caught up in political turmoil, and without caring about personal storms,” the foreword read.
The book emphasizes two particularly important points: “Without compromising the principles of the republic” and “without getting caught up in political turmoil.”
As Simavi explained on Hürriyet’s first day of publication, Hürriyet is not a newspaper that shapes its direction based on politicians’ expectations. The main factor that allows Hürriyet to come through all stormy seas is its ongoing ability to renew itself based on society’s expectations rather than those of politicians.
As elections approach
What Simavi emphasized 70 years ago about the newspaper’s neutrality and independence from political parties is a universal journalistic principle. Indeed, a biased journalist cannot be free and cannot provide accurate information. Journalists must have equal distance from all politicians and parties.
This principle gains even more importance as elections approach. A journalist cannot be in charge of making sure one political party gets more votes than others. A journalist cannot be engaged in carrying out a party’s propaganda. A journalist is simply charged with informing the public before the latter makes its choice in elections.
At the same time, simply copying and pasting politicians’ remarks – a common practice in the Turkish media across the spectrum – only undermines the practice of journalism. Reporters should be able to examine, analyze, and contextualize all these remarks.
In giving a voice to all parties, journalists must be balanced, objective and fair, while also being strict monitors of ballot security on polling day. That is how journalists can best serve their nation.