Sep 07 2018

Controversial new board of Cumhuriyet foundation may lead to split

The former board members of Cumhuriyet foundation, the owner of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper, gathered on Friday to designate its new board. 

Controversial names like Alev Coşkun and Turan Karakaş were chosen to the new board. Former board member Alev Coşkun, who was alleged to send anonymous denunciations to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan which were used as an evidence in Cumhuriyet trial that Cumhuriyet writers and directors were subjected to heavy penalties, has become the new chair of the foundation. 

Turan Karakaş was an MP candidate for nationalist Vatan Party on June 24 elections. 

Ali Sirmen has been elected as the deputy chairman while Işık Kansu becomes the general secretary while İrfan Huseyin Yıldız becomes the treasurer.

The board has chosen Aykut Küçükkaya as Cumhuriyet's new editor-in-chief in place of Murat Sabuncu who was in charge of this position for about two years. Sabuncu has spent approximately 17 months in prison as the editor-in-chief.

Some of the writers are expected to sever ties with the newspaper due to new board members of the foundation.

The Cumhuriyet Trials

The Cumhuriyet trials began on October 31 2016, when prosecutors began investigating the newspaper for allegedly aiding the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed Kurdish group designated as a terrorist organisation in Turkey, and the Gülen movement, followers of an Islamist preacher accused of plotting the failed July 2016 coup attempt.

Ahmet Şık, a former columnist, as well as journalist Aydın Engin and former editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu received seven-and-a-half-year sentences.

Journalists Hikmet Çetinkaya and Orhan Erinç received six years and six months each, while cartoonist Musa Kart and four other Cumhuriyet staff, Güray Öz, Mustafa Kemal Güngör, Hakan Kara and Önder Çelik received 45-month sentences. Columnist Kadri Gürsel was handed a 30-month sentence.