Columnist Mehveş Evin, who was fired by the daily on Friday, commented on the issue via her Twitter account, writing: “I was fired from the Milliyet newspaper. I still don’t know why. But, I will not give in, thus I continue to write!”
The daily also fired columnist Meral Tamer and three correspondents from its Ankara office — Kemal Göktaş, Evin Demirtaş and Sertaç Koç — on Thursday afternoon. Two other Milliyet correspondents also announced via Twitter on Friday that they were also fired by the daily. One of those two, Semra Pelek, wrote on Twitter: “I was fired by the Milliyet daily. It is very good for me.” The other correspondent, Alper İzbul, wrote on Friday: “Milliyet Newspaper fired me. Good luck…”
Göktaş also posted a tweet on Thursday evening about his dismissal, saying: “The Milliyet daily fired me, Evin Demirtaş and Sertaç Koç from its Ankara office. Good luck to everyone!”
The daily did not publish on Thursday a news report written by Evin about recent clashes between the security forces and members of the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the Silvan district of Diyarbakır and the Silopi district of Şırnak.
According to media reports, the daily is also planning to fire 25 more people in the coming days.
The daily has previously fired columnist Kadri Gürsel over a tweet in which he criticized President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as being responsible for the presence of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Turkey. Additionally, Aslı Aydıntaşbaş — a columnist critical of the government — announced her departure from Milliyet on May 29, in what appears to be another instance of increasing government pressure on journalists and media that criticizes it.
The head of the Milliyet daily, businessman Erdoğan Demirören, is believed to have played a critical role in the daily’s decision to fire the journalists.
Demirören, a close associate of President Erdoğan, has fired many journalists and forced prominent figures to resign upon Erdoğan’s order. Critics believe the patronage relationship between media owners and the government operates against the concept of media freedom and narrows the space for critical voices in Turkey to speak freely. For instance, an audio clip, purportedly of then-Prime Minister Erdoğan having a phone conversation with Demirören in which they spoke of a story published in one of his dailies, was uploaded onto YouTube on March 7 of last year.
The voice allegedly belonging to Erdoğan criticizes Demirören over the publication of the minutes of a meeting between Abdullah Öcalan, the imprisoned leader of the terrorist PKK, and a delegation from the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) in Öcalan’s prison cell on the island of İmralı. Demirören is heard explaining to Erdoğan that he was also shocked to see it on the page and that he would do what was necessary to fix the situation. However, after failing to calm Erdoğan, Demirören is heard crying. Toward the end of the conversation, the 76-year-old Milliyet owner is heard saying, “How did I get involved in this business?” while in tears following the then-prime minister’s insults.