Journalist Bila becomes new Hürriyet editor-in-chief after crisis on army-gov’t story

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Hürriyet’s former Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin on Wednesday handed over his post to journalist Fikret Bila after the daily came under severe criticism from government circles for a report published on Saturday about the army-government relationship.

Hürriyet has attracted widespread criticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and other government figures for the report and has been accused of trying to create tension between the government and the military.

Hürriyet reporter İsmail Saymaz shared photos from the handing-over ceremony from his Twitter account on Wednesday as he wrote: “Sedat Ergin has just handed over his post to Fikret Bila at a ceremony attended by [Hürriyet Chairwoman] Vuslat Doğan Sabancı.”

The report, which was published on Saturday and written by Hürriyet’s Ankara Representative Hande Fırat, was titled “The [military] headquarters is restless,” which meant to say that the General Staff was disturbed about criticism suggesting that it was too close to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and found it without merit.

The daily received criticism in particular because of its choice of headline as it was reminiscent of the “Young Officers Are Restless” headline that appeared in the Cumhuriyet daily in May 2003 shortly after the AKP came to power as a single party government. The Cumhuriyet’s news report hinted at a military intervention because military officers were uneasy with the practices of the AKP government.

Releasing a statement on Tuesday, Hürriyet said: “We never imagined such a meaning would be attributed to this headline. Such a deliberate act is out of the question. Even if there was no such intention, the ‘military is restless’ headline could be seen as an editorial mistake. We are sorry for it.”

Hürriyet’s statement came following remarks by President Erdoğan, who said the daily would pay a heavy price for writing such a story which he said was aimed at pitting the government and the military against each other.

The daily’s announcement also came after a statement from the General Staff, which accused the daily of distorting its statements.

In the meantime, Turkish media reports claimed on Wednesday that Hürriyet’s Ankara Representative Fırat quit her job due to the outrage over her story, but the daily’s administration has not yet decided whether to accept the journalist’s resignation.

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