Courtesy Hayırsevener family
Courtesy Hayırsevener family

Editor killed by unknown gunmen in Turkey

New York, December 21, 2009—The Committee to Protect Journalists called on Turkish authorities today to locate the killers of journalist Cihan Hayırsevener and bring them to justice. Hayırsevener, at left, editor of the local daily newspaper Güney Marmara’da Yaşam, was shot three times in the leg on December 19 while walking to his office in Bandirma, a town 60 miles (100 kilometers) northeast of Istanbul, according to local news reports.

One bullet hit a major artery in his left leg, causing intensive bleeding. He was taken by ambulance to Bandirma State Hospital, and later moved to a medical facility in Bursa where he died. The gunman escaped in a vehicle immediately following the shooting, the Anatolia news agency reported. Authorities have been actively investigating the murder, his family told CPJ.

Hayırsevener had recently received multiple anonymous death threats in connection with his journalism, according to local news accounts. “Recently, we received an envelope,” said Umit Babacan, an editor at Güney Marmara’da Yaşam. “Inside was a clipping from a novel called Aşk (Love) by Elif Safak. It said that evil cannot be seen, that it is in the heart, and that it cannot be washed out. The threat was not explicit, but Cihan and I could feel the danger.”

Hayırsevener had been reporting on a local corruption scandal involving three owners of İlkhaber, another major daily in Bandirma. The three are currently in prison on corruption charges, Turkish media reported. They were found guilty of accepting cash payouts from a former mayor. Before his death, Hayırsevener’s investigation was focusing on what the payments were in exchange for, according to local news reports. 

“We are saddened by the murder of Cihan Hayırsevener and offer our condolences to his family and colleagues,” said Mohamed Abdel Dayem, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. “We urge the police to move quickly to ensure that the perpetrators are held to account for this cowardly act.” 

Hayırsevener, 53, founded Güney Marmara’da Yaşam nine years ago and covered news in Bandirma and surrounding areas. He is survived by his wife and two children. The journalist’s daughter, Gaye Hayırsevener, told CPJ: “We feel a great sadness especially knowing that the perpetrators are still at large. The police are still investigating, but we want to know where the orders came from; we want justice.”

Although Turkey has made significant strides in press freedom in recent years, European Union officials recently warned the country about domestic challenges to freedom of expression as part of the Turkey’s annual review in its bid to join the European Union. The last killing of a journalist in Turkey took place in 2007 when Hrant Dink, managing editor of the bilingual Turkish-Armenian weekly Agos, was shot outside his newspaper’s offices in Istanbul. The Dink murder trial is ongoing.