A private security employee stands guard at the entrance of daily newspaper Cumhuriyet’s offices, in Istanbul. REUTERS Photo / Murad Sezer
Police raided the printing press of Turkish daily Cumhuriyet on Jan. 14, as it prepared to distribute a four-page selection of Charlie Hebdo’s new issue in an act of solidarity with the French satirical magazine targeted last week in a deadly attack that claimed 12 victims.
The police also took extreme security measures ahead of the scheduled publication of the supplement.
Police cars were sent to the printer of the daily in Istanbul early on Jan. 14 and halted trucks to prevent the distribution of the Jan. 14 edition. The distribution was eventually allowed after the prosecution made sure that cartoons representing the Prophet Muhammad were not included in the selection.
Cumhuriyet editor-in-chief Utku Çakırözer stated earlier that they had decided not to publish a cartoon on the cover featuring the Prophet Muhammad in tears holding a “Je suis Charlie” banner, in reference to solidarity protests with the magazine.
“When preparing this selection, we have been attentive to religious sensitivities as well as freedom of belief, in line with our editorial principles,” Çakırözer said via Twitter on Jan. 13. “We didn’t include the cover of the magazine after a long deliberation.”
Speaking later to private broadcaster CNN Türk, he said the police raid was ordered by a prosecutor in line with the Turkish press law.
“The prosecutor then saw that the content does not violate any laws, so he allowed the trucks to leave the printing press for distribution. It shouldn’t be like this,” Çakırözer said, adding that “free speech should be defended by the whole of society.”
“Prime Minister [Ahmet Davutoğlu] himself went to march for free speech in Paris last week,” he said, voicing his hope that he expects “messages of common sense” after two Cumhuriyet columnists became the target of online threats.
Despite the daily’s decision not to publish the most controversial cartoons, police extended security measures in the surroundings of its offices in Istanbul’s central Şişli neighborhood.
An employee of daily Cumhuriyet told the Hürriyet Daily News on condition of anonymity on Jan. 14 that the newspaper had received hundreds of death threats.
Despite the official message of support to the victims, the magazine has been chided by many officials and commentators for publishing cartoons of Muhammad.
“Daily Cumhuriyet will be complicit with a magazine that insults sacred values and commits hate crimes against Muslims, slamming religion,” said conservative daily Yeni Şafak, known for its closeness to the government.
‘Most important version’
The surviving members of Charlie Hebdo announced on Jan. 13 that the new issue would be printed in 14 languages, including Turkish and Arabic. Its editor-in-chief, Gérard Biard, argued that the Turkish version was “the most important.”
“Turkey is in a difficult period and secularism there is under attack,” Biard told Agence France-Presse.
Charlie Hebdo’s defiant cover had drawn ire from Muslim groups, who warned that it could still inflame tensions despite the massacre among those who believe any depiction of the Prophet Muhammad is blasphemous.
The magazine’s move especially prompted French Muslim groups to urge their communities to “stay calm and avoid emotional reactions” to the cartoon.