“I managed to sit in the Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief’s office for two months. There is an interesting view. One side of the office overlooks a graveyard and one side the judicial complex. A brief summary of the adventure of journalism in Turkey.” This is what Murat Sabuncu had to say at the first hearing of the Cumhuriyet trial on 24 July 2017. Tomorrow, Sabuncu along with Akın Atalay and Ahmet Şık and the other defendants on pretrial release will make their sixth appearance before the court. I asked his journalist colleagues who had worked closely with him about Sabuncu’s adventure in journalism.
İpek Özbey – Murat will come out and write again
We were mere minnows when we first became acquainted. Our names were Mesut (Yar), Murat (Sabuncu), İpek (Özbey) and Nihan. We were the proteges of our master, Tanju Cılızoğlu, who got us started in journalism. We brought out a monthly magazine and its name was Söyleşi. New publications then came in its wake. For example, we started to bring out a newspaper called Kutup Yıldızı for Yıldırım Aktuna – who at that time was Bakırköy Mayor. Then we grew up and the world became dirty. We, however, were still young idealists as it got dirty. We had idealised our profession to the extent that we carried reports in Aktuna’s paper criticising Aktuna. Our editor-in-chief Cılızoğlu taught us to hunt down the news. He later left us all “adrift in the market.” We all worked, knocked ourselves out, got sacked, quarrelled and our reports were not used. This is all run-of-the-mill stuff. But this is not how it was with Murat. His freedom is at stake in life’s ongoing negotiations with him. But I believe Murat will come out and write again. Like all our journalist colleagues. And dear Eylem will be united with the love of her life.
Doğan Akın - They will feel shame for each of his minutes
The swings of life saw me coming to Murat Sabuncu’s newspaper, Milliyet, and Murat going to my newspaper, Cumhuriyet. It was June 1999. For sure, I knew him from my Ankara days, but my face-to-face acquaintanceship with Murat came about on this date. I have worked alongside Murat on papers, magazines, television and the internet – on all channels we can find in this profession. Gustave Flaubert speaks in the book “November” of the “beds we sleep on, which know nothing of our dreams.” This is also how it works for people on the adventure that is enmeshed in time. They cannot comprehend time that they image to be supposedly measured by the leaves of a calendar. In the end, people depart and time remains! This time, too, Murat is embroiled in the narratives of the country that is once more frozen in time’s same still. Murat, frenetically racing with time, counting not the months but even the minutes of his incarceration and continuously rushing around impatiently. Murat who likely awakes in Silivri where he is imprisoned in a blood feud waged against the Republic and while trying to conduct journalism informed by the institutions of the Republic with dreams of a free country. Those who retain no power beyond four walls will feel shame for each of Murat Sabuncu’s minutes that they blotted out between four walls this time round in the footsteps of those like Nâzım Hikmet, Sabahattin Ali, Uğur Mumcu, İlhan Selçuk, İsmail Beşikçi, Ahmet Şık and many others. Montaigne speaks of his head being splattered in blood under the cudgel of fate but held high. Those who imprison people in blind darkness at times of lawlessness for their thoughts have always passed and will do so again. Journalism, conversely, will remain as it always has. And will tell – as was İlhan Selçuk’s experience - of how those who wielded the cudgel of fate sculpted a monstrous statue for themselves.
Aram Ekin Duran - For as long as they exist there will always be journalists
Murat Sabuncu, Ahmet Şık and Akın Atalay, who have completed almost 500 days incarcerated in Silivri for the good name of reason and the pen possess an exceptional place in Turkey’s press history. They have also acquired symbolic status for hundreds and thousands of reporters who support them and demand their immediate freedom. In this dark climate, everyone who scribbles away in the quest for “true news” in some place or other will have their eyes on the 9 March Cumhuriyet trial. I look forward to the day on which Murat Sabuncu finally walks to freedom without delay and takes charge of the paper. For, Sabuncu is one of the most important representatives in this period of the approach to reporting that the country longs for and needs. A fastidious obsession with detail, an insistence on accessing all parties to a story and a journalistic courage that does not refrain from troubling power nexuses in the public interest. Precisely these attributes show us once more how much we as a society are in need of Murat Sabuncu’s journalism today. Beloved Murat Sabuncu is a journalist who sets his life by the news rhythm and considers living his life along the course charted by the news to the abandonment of his family and loved ones to be a professional responsibility. The approach to journalism represented by Murat Sabuncu is the greatest obstacle before the single-man sultanate in this country, prohibitions on the freedom of expression, the silencing of the cries for peace and a brazen network of graft. We can thus say with ease that for as long as there are those with tyrannical aspirations in Turkey, there will always be honourable journalists like Murat Sabuncu who are prepared to pay the price of true reporting and freedom of expression.
Fatih Polat – I have missed him saying, “My brother”
My direct acquaintance with Murat Sabuncu came thanks to his press solidarity. Three years ago, Deputy Prime-Minister at the time, Bülent Arınç, targeted Evrensel and Özgür Gündem newspapers on a television programme on 24 July Press Freedom Day saying, “They are crime machines.” Murat Sabuncu numbered among those who filed a criminal complaint against Arınç. I also invited Murat to the News Watch that we staged in solidarity with journalists under duress in the region’s sub-provinces. Despite his work pressure, he came. Then Murat was detained. In detention, too, he did not compromise by even a millimetre on his robust and solidarity-imbued stance. While following the Cumhuriyet trials, along with Murat’s great many important pronouncements, I will not forget the following two things he stressed: “We will not verge from the path of İlhan Selçuk, Uğur Mumcu, Musa Anter, Hrant Dink and Metin Göktepe” and “This trial will be taught in schools. And even if we stay behind bars for another ten and a half months we will continue to defend journalism and the freedom of expression.” And I have also missed him saying, “My brother.” I have not seen anyone say “brother” like him.
Uğur Gürses- Come and finish the documentary
I was making the morning programme with Murat on SKY360 in the period in which Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were detained seven years ago and sent to Silivri. Murat commented on the political agenda, and I on the economic agenda, and we both placed the main stress on the supremacy of the law, justice and democratic values. Externally precisely at the time the Greece crisis erupted in Europe and, in turn, domestically when journalists were being imprisoned with the attempt made to silence them on the pretext of “Ergenekon”. With Murat on the one hand defending the journalists’ rights on the programme, on the other hand, at the end of the programme every Wednesday he got ready and set out for Silivri. He was a regular visitor of Nedim Şener. He even undertook work on a documentary to record events and leave a mark on history. He has now become embroiled in a process reminiscent of Kafka’s novels. People realise who their friends are at moments of crisis and Murat is an exemplary person in terms of honesty, morality and professional honour. His manner was one that approached everyone with the attitude of “my friend” and, most importantly, that was redolent of conscience in all of these political and unlawful processes. It still is. Following the passage of six years, he has now spent a year in compulsory residence in Silivri under extraordinary conditions. Murat is one who, when you ask him how he is in a courtroom having spent more than a year in detention, can deftly inquire, “How are you, my friend?” his face glowing with a smile. This New Year, the Twitter post Eylem made went with the flow. There was a picture of the roses he had sent Eylem and written underneath was, “If Murat doesn’t come, his smell does.” On days like New Year’s Day, fresh hopes and fresh beginnings are wished for. And I posted on my Instagram account the photograph of gingko bilobas that I took last April at New Year and added the following words below: “Come what may, the end of winter is spring.” As is known, the first flower of spring to bloom in Istanbul is the yellow mimosa and even now they have slowly begun to turn yellow. We are waiting Murat; come and finish that documentary.
Murat Sabuncu's colleagues speak of his adventure in journalism