Every two to three weeks recently, I have seen off a colleague leaving the courthouse for prison or snatched a few moments with a deeply missed, and now detained, workmate in the shadow of the authorities. But we aren’t afraid of this dungeon darkness because we journalists are only doing our jobs.
I have been a court reporter for Cumhuriyet since 2013, so I spend the large majority of my working life in the courts. We all have moments we cannot forget from our working lives. For me, one such day was 5 November 2016, the day when 10 of our writers and managers were arrested. I was waiting for the court’s decision right behind the barrier in the court building, and the moment I heard the decision I felt a flush of pride for our 10 writers and managers, followed by anger and deep depression for my friends.
I felt proud because the fact that they had been arrested for their journalism had been mentioned in the court’s decision. In listing examples of our reporting as the reason for the arrests, the judge took the government’s insistence that “they were not arrested for their journalism” and threw it out of the window. I felt anger and sadness because we were sending our friends off to an indefinite spell of captivity. The police would not even allow us to say goodbye to our colleagues who were only 30 or 40 metres away behind a barrier. But among the many feelings I had, fear was not one of them. When the attacks on journalism are on this scale, fear becomes a luxury.
After our 10 colleagues were arrested, many journalists from around Europe began visiting our newspaper’s offices. Our foreign counterparts wanted to hear about what had happened and how we felt, and they all had the same question: “Are you afraid?” From November onwards, arrests of journalists have continued at a regular pace. But just as on that day, my answer to that question today is short and sweet: “No!”
We are not afraid, because we are doing our work and we are concerned only with our work. We are not afraid, because we too feel as if we have been in Silivri prison with our colleagues for these long months. We are not afraid, because very little difference remains between being in and out of prison. We are not afraid, because the heads of our jailed colleagues are held high. We are not afraid, because Fethullah Gülen, the exiled cleric accused by the government of being behind last year’s failed coup attempt, was not once our “partner in crime”. We are not afraid, because the Cumhuriyet that governments of every era have tried to silence has only reported, is only reporting and will only report.