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The following appeared in the Turkish-language newspaper published in Germany Artı Gerçek on 8 September 2018. Translated from Turkish by Tim Drayton

Cumhuriyet did not publish Sabuncu’s farewell article

“We will bend before no one; we will bend with respect before our people alone.”

Murat Sabuncu, who spent nearly one and a half years in detention as a result of the operation conducted against Cumhuriyet has stood down as Cumhuriyet Newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, a post he had held for nearly two years. Following the public controversy created by the change made to the Cumhuriyet Foundation, Sabuncu commented, “Now is the time to go. History will record the reason. Nobody will hear a single word from my lips against Cumhuriyet. Dear readers, as we promised, we bent before no one from that day until today. Let Cumhuriyet be a beacon.”

Following the meeting at which former Cumhuriyet Foundation Deputy Executive Board Chair Alev Coşkun, one of the prosecution witnesses in the trial at which heavy custodial sentences were handed down to Cumhuriyet’s managers and columnists, was re-elected to chair the foundation, the newspaper’s news coordinator Aykut Küçükkaya was brought in to replace Sabuncu.

His article “Long live Cumhuriyet against the darkness” read as follows:

When I come to the newspaper at an early hour, before heading up to my room on the fifth floor, I descend to the “Cumhuriyet Museum” immediately below the reception. This houses a great many personal mementos from a Lipotype printing machine dating from the end of the 1800’s to the personal effects of the Nadi family, the newspaper’s founders. Of course, you will also find traces of the symbolic names who have enabled the paper to reach these days from İlhan Selçuk to Uğur Mumcu and from Ahmet Taner Kışlalı to Onat Kutlar. Inside the museum there is a modest-looking locked door, painted white. You reach a small room through it. The room is small but a great history lies in there. The volumes made up of all the editions ever since Cumhuriyet newspaper was founded live here.

Newspapers appearing in the old script and then the new script in Roman letters and even in one period half in the old and half in the new script. A newspaper that was left in almost every coffee shop round about 1928, partly to promote familiarization with the new letters. The intention at its founding was, at Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s request, for the newspaper that saw the light of day in Istanbul to be for ever and ever the people’s newspaper. Wandering around that archive of newspapers that witnessed the founding of this country in that little room always leaves my knees shaking. Whenever I am about to take a critical editorial decision at the paper, I go into that room, close the door and say to myself: “Take a position that befits the newspaper’s inception, its founder and this newspaper that has paid the price in every period. Don’t worry. Come out with what you have to say. Chase after rights and freedoms. Whatever the price.”

This is my first and last editorial to you. I was editor-in-chief for 25 months at Cumhuriyet, where I have proudly worked for four years and one month. Seventeen months of this period passed in prison. I was detained having been editor-in-chief for two months and was released on 9 March. I have been at the paper every day from that day until today, for a full six months. I am not going to talk about the aspersions cast against me and the leading actors and extras in the Cumhuriyet trial. History has in fact recorded this and that which is unknown will sooner or later be written about. Here I will tell you about the feelings with which we brought out the paper.

We brought out Cumhuriyet every day to be a newspaper “which is the voice of those who have lost their voices and in which things it is wished to conceal are boldly shown” in keeping with its historic past. We put together an intellectual structure in which different voices cohabited during this ordeal in which everyone “is in love with their own voice.” Whoever suffered injustice, regardless of which community they were from or personal friendships, we reported it with all our objectivity and informed by journalistic and universal values. We did not look at the identities of the ill-treated. For the most part we came under attack from the ruling entity and from time to time of “those who waved the sword to get their community’s applause.” But, we never compromised on true and conscientious news reporting and being the voice of those who had suffered injustice.

The country, from academics to the media and businesspeople to literary people, has of late been engulfed in a massive silence “mixed with fear”. This silence has settled on the country like a baleful cloud of mist. We tried to be a windpipe for our readers in such an environment. My personal history encompasses both standing alongside the headscarf-wearing kids who were deprived of their freedom in the 28 February process, and suffering grief following the losses on the Mavi Marmara ship heading to Gaza on a humanitarian aid mission. It encompasses both reporting on Kurdish politicians who have suffered oppression and ”believing with hope in the peace process.“

It encompasses both being among a handful of people who opposed the blows struck by the judiciary that the Gülenists, the one time partners of the ruling entity, had usurped, and being among the visitors in Silivri of my colleagues who had fallen victim to their aspersions. As well as coming out in immediate opposition to the 15 July coup attempt, in common with all the other coups. And resisting the civilian oppression that was constructed after 20 July. And paying the price for resisting.

There were two of our colleagues who were released on judicial control terms while we were being led from arrest to detention. One of them was Aydın Engin. I whispered two sentences into his ear when he came to bid farewell to me: “Brother, send my greetings to our readers. We will bend before no one; we will bend with respect before them, our people, alone.”

Dear readers, as we promised, we bent before no one from that day until today. Let Cumhuriyet be a beacon.

Archive of Turkish press translations by Tim Drayton