by Begüm Burak
It is a widely-known fact that, Turkey has undergone several changes and turbulent years. Military interventions, Kurdish uprisings and PKK terror, the inability of non-state actors and elites to cope with non-democratic practices – all of these have so far had major impact not only upon theTurkish society but also upon the Turkish media.
Since the inception of the Turkish Republic, the press has been used as a tool for nation-builders in shaping society and politics. Moreover, the media did not serve just as an instrument for informing the masses but also served the interests of the elites.
Unfortunately, the media in Turkey cannot be characterized as having a good relationship with democracy. A recent example of the tutelary attitude adopted by the media can be seen in the February 28 Process of 1997. During that process, a considerable amount of pressure was placed on the leading Islamist party of the time-being, namely the Welfare Party. In addition, the practicing Muslims were stigmatized as ‘domestic enemies’ for the secular regime. In those times, the mainstream media were engaged in a harsh campaign against the Welfare Party-led government along with pious citizens. Mehmet Ali Birand who has worked for the mainstream media organs for several years adopted a principled line during those years no matter how hard times he had gone through.
Mehmet Ali Birand who died at the age of 72 was a hard-working, clever, lively and righteous person. He made “principled journalism” for many years besides writing plenty of books and making quality documentaries. What I mean by “principled journalism” is that he had not bargained journalism away for ideological concerns. As known, in Turkey, there are many journalists who prefer to hide the truth for ideological purposes in order to fawn the politicians or media bosses. By contrast, Mr. Birand has always followed an equity-based path and he has always been in pursuit of ideology-free news. He has been a devout democrat. So, today thousands of people think of him as a democrat and a man with principles.
Not only did he tell us the news from around the world, but also the story of Turkey – the military interventions and beyond. He worked hard and passed away…
Rest in Peace Mehmet Ali Birand!