‘Free’ newspapers are on their way to Turkey!

The Bugun newspaper used to have a circulation of more than 100,000 copies before it was seized by trustees; now it only has a circulation of 5,000 copies. What a drop in just a few weeks. But these trustees who have sacked most of the journalists in these newspapers and who have changed the editorial policy altogether, from critical to 100 percent government-supporting, do not care about these results at all. They must have been reassured that as long as they make sure these publications run as government supporters, no one will question them for their failures.

On the contrary: One of the trustees who was appointed to Millet — another newspaper in the İpek Media Group — threatened Cumhuriyet, a secular and left-wing newspaper, by saying that a “trustee” could visit it as well.

Well, everything is happening in front of everyone’s eyes. They appoint trustees/bogeyman to newspapers to destroy them and remove critical channels from the state-owned Turksat satellite. When they remove channels from this satellite, they practically unplug you; you cannot reach anywhere anymore. They recently removed 13 TV channels, including Samanyolu, from the satellite.

In this suffocating environment, there is a little piece of hopeful news that I would like to share with you. Journalists who were fired from Bugun by trustees have just established a newspaper with the name “Ozgur Dusunce” (Free Thought). They have invited columnists to write articles for it, including me. I will write four times a week for this newspaper. I hope it can survive and I hope bogeymen will not reach this newspaper for a long time.

When they said to me on Monday that the paper would be released on Thursday, I was not sure if they could manage, or if there would be last-minute hurdles, or if the authorities would interfere in the process at the very last minute. But on Tuesday I bought the first edition of Ozgur Dusunce and I was delighted. The very existence of the newspaper is a strong message to the government: You can seize newspapers and TV channels but you cannot destroy thoughts.

Well, in the old days, military-backed governments used to close down Kurdish newspapers. These Kurdish newspapers used to restart circulation by adding the word “free” before their original names. Today, unfortunately, this government treats all critical newspapers in the same way the military-backed governments treated Kurdish newspapers. So, there is a high possibility of seeing many “free” newspapers in Turkey soon.

But this also means that people are not giving up their freedom. If you take something from them, they come up with something else. I salute the “Free Thought” newspaper and hope it will contribute to the struggle for democracy and freedoms in Turkey.