Cumhuriyet daily tramples free speech, cencors own columnist

YUNUS PAKSOY @yunuspaksoy
ISTANBUL
Published 11.11.2015 21:37

The Cumhuriyet daily, known for its criticism of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan due to their alleged attempts to oppress freedom of expression, censored its own columnist, Bedri Baykam, in a column published on Nov. 10. In the column, Baykam criticized Republican People's Party (CHP) Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu.

Cumhuriyet, whose editor-in-chief, Can Dündar, attended a protest march in early October with the motto: "Free media cannot be silenced," has come under fire for the censorship imposed on one of its columnists who penned an opinion column critical of a political leader. Baykam's column could be seen in newspapers printed for rural areas. In newspapers printed for urban areas, however, Baykam's column was taken out due to a possible late order to do so.The column's title was: "What you say is not possible Mr. Kılıçdaroğlu because…" The column was not even published on the Cumhuriyet website. Dündar had previously said at the protest march: "There is so much pressure that it should be obvious." The move by Cumhuriyet, however, was interpreted by some as a contradiction.

The column criticized CHP Chairman Kılıçdaroğlu after his fifth electoral defeat against the AK Party. Baykam went on to levy criticism at Kılıçdaroğlu for his excuse, putting the blame on "extraordinary conditions" in the run up to the elections.

Cumhuriyet on Wednesday released a written statement regarding Baykam's column and defended the decision on the grounds of principles. Emphasizing that Baykam co-signed a manifesto with regard to the CHP's extraordinary congress, Cumhuriyet said "it saw fit not to publish [Baykam's] columns because it was understood that Mr. Baykam is or will be in active political activity over the course of the CHP's congress period."Meanwhile, Daily Sabah tried to contact Cumhuriyet to get to the bottom of the issue. However, an authority able to provide a clear answer could not be reached.

Speaking exclusively to Daily Sabah on Cumhuriyet's censorship decision, Baykam said he will issue a written statement on Thursday, yet he accepted to share his thoughts. Asserting that everyone in Turkey is eager to censor things, Baykam said: "Everyone can have an excuse. I am not a candidate like [Mustafa] Balbay nor active in campaigning. I was a candidate for the CHP chairmanship back in 2003 and even the shoeshine boys on the streets knew it, it was not a secret. However, I am not a candidate now."

Baykam argued that Cumhuriyet's written statement cannot be applied to him for the aforementioned reasons. "I don't agree with the daily on this issue," Baykam said.

He also added: "I expect those who made this interpretation mistake to correct it as soon as possible."

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