Duvar English

Four journalists of the opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper have given their testimonies to the Istanbul police station over a news report concerning illegal construction undertaken by Presidential Communications Director Fahrettin Altun on a land in Istanbul’s Kuzguncuk neighborhood.

Cumhuriyet currently faces an investigation over its April 14-dated report that the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (İBB) demolished a pergola and fireplace which were illegally constructed on a plot rented by Altun overlooking the Bosphorus. 

Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is accusing the newspaper of sharing “Altun’s full address” and therefore making him “a target of terrorist organizations” — an accusation denied by the journalists.

Journalist Hazal Ocak said in her testimony on April 30 that she had undertaken her research after receiving messages, photographs and videos from Altun’s neighbors complaining about the construction in the area.

Ocak said that her research led her to find out the land in question belonged to the General Directorate of the Foundations under the Culture and Tourism Ministry, and Altun was renting this lot of land.

Ocak said that she went to see the land in question with photo journalist Vedat Arık. “Afterwards, I talked with the officials of the İBB and they told me that unauthorized construction activities were undertaken on the land in question and therefore the pergola and fireplace were demolished by the municipal police on April 13, 2020,” Ocak said.

Ocak said that she also tried to contact Altun regarding the matter but he declined to answer her questions.

Emphasizing that she did not give Altun’s open address in the news piece, Ocak said: “I have done this news piece to notify the public, as what is required by the journalism profession.”

Photo journalist Arık said that he took two photographs of the land in question from a far distance. “I have been doing this profession for 20 years and have never had a purpose of showing a person or an institution as a target,” he said during his testimony on April 30.

Cumhuriyet’s managing editor Olcay Büyüktaş Akça said the news piece is an outcome of journalism profession itself, whereas editor İpek Özbey said that the article “was not written by any instruction, but was penned for the purpose of journalism.”