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Longtime "Hürriyet" journalist dismissed, allegedly due to government pressure

(BIANET/IFEX) - After 22 years with the "Hürriyet" newspaper, columnist Emin Cölasan has been dismissed. Journalists' associations and prominent individual journalists have protested his dismissal.

The Turkey Journalist's Society (TGC) condemned the dismissal, saying, "We cannot accept that Cölasan, an important writer in the Turkish media, has been dismissed because of his dissident articles."

The TGC management council stated that it would support Cölasan. In a written statement, the society said: "That such an event has taken place at a time when messages of compromise and tolerance abound makes us worried about government-press relations in the coming period."

The TGC emphasised that freedom of the press was an indispensable element of democracy. It reminded everyone, including the media, that everyone should work toward ending this kind of censorship.

Ahmet Abakay, the chairperson of the Modern Journalists' Association (CGD), stated that "Cölasan's dismissal is a warning to other opposition writers." The CGD argues that Cölasan has been dismissed due to pressure from the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP) government on the newspaper: "This is punishment of a writer who does not support the government. The decision is proof that the newspaper will not be independent of the government and does not want to be. The issue goes beyond Emin Cölasan; the government has successfully silenced a writer who expresses dissident opinions."

Journalist Fatih Altayli has said that he is not surprised by Cölasan's dismissal because the newspaper's owner, Aydin Dogan, had wanted to fire Cölasan for four years. According to Altayli, what stopped Dogan was the fear that Cölasan would transfer to another big newspaper, specifically "Sabah".

Altayli worked for "Hürriyet" for a long time and then transferred to "Sabah". He now works for the website. He said in an article, "Profiting from the taming of 'Sabah', the Dogan Group is cleaning up." He added, "The Dogan Group is trying to get rid of those people it sees as burdens, those who make its life difficult. Because 'Sabah' is now controlled by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) and is not a rival anymore, there is no possibility of Cölasan transferring there. They were able to fire him easily."

Three journalists who joined a live programme on Sky Türk, a web-based television station - "Cumhuriyet" journalist Ali Sirmen, Kanal Türk television station owner Tuncay Özkan and the Turkey Journalists' Syndicate (TGS) chairperson Ercan Ipekci - described Cölasan's dismissal as "a blow to freedom of expression." Ipekci said that journalists less well-known than Cölasan had been fired prior to the general elections of 22 July. "At that point, we began to worry whether there was restructuring under way. It seems that the editors-in-chief have decided to implement that model. Every newspaper has its own style. We don't believe that people are dismissed because of accusations of insults. If [Cölasan] has been fired because he criticised the government, then we are worried. It would mean that rather than maintaining freedom of the press and of expression, the media is violating it," Ipekci added.

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