AFTER four years of studies at the Sorbonne Law School, this year I had a pivotal internship experience which began when my father, Murat Sabuncu, joined other Turkish journalists in prison, after the Turkish police launched an investigation into the managers and journalists of Cumhuriyet on Oct 31, 2016. My father is editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, one of the few remaining critical and independent voices in Turkish media.
After staying in prison for five months, he and his colleagues were accused of links to various terrorist groups. They could get sentences of between 7.5 and 43 years. In July, a court in Istanbul ordered the release of seven Cumhuriyet journalists, after nine months of pre-trial detention and preliminary hearings. The trial continued on Sept 11 and Sept 25, but the court remanded my father and three other prominent staff members in custody.
As my father’s detention is a form of political punishment for an editorial line critical of the Turkish president and the ruling AKP, I do not care about the accusations. I am not sure if the Cumhuriyet journalists can make themselves heard in the courtroom, but their voice is echoing outside of it.
Living in Paris, I know that when we look at Turkey from the outside, it may seem dystopian. Reading stories of journalists and opposition MPs in prison, dismissed university professors and two young people on hunger strike, darken our view. However, every time I go back to my country and attend the hearings of the Cumhuriyet trial, I am filled with hope, as I see people resisting and fighting for their newspaper and their right to information.
I would not have wished to see my country’s name as the world’s biggest jail for journalists, with 160 journalists behind bars. Yet the Turkish people’s courage is exemplary. The trial has changed me; I have internalised the concepts of democracy, justice and human rights. I see that the trial is also transforming Turkey and its people.
The next hearing is on Oct 31. I hope that the Cumhuriyet team will be released, and the case fully withdrawn, if only for the reputation of Turkey and its judiciary. Whatever the outcome of the trial, I will continue the fight alongside my father and his friends, and stand by those who fight for a free and independent media.
Published in Dawn, October 29th, 2017