Turkey's 'most courageous newspaper'
Roy Greenslade

Guardian/UK
Friday 2 January 2009 11.49 GMT

Taraf, a small-circulation liberal daily launched in November 2007, is
currently regarded as "Turkey's most courageous newspaper". It may sell
only 60,000 copies a day - but it has won a reputation for breaking
stories that no other paper dares to touch.

Most notably, it has been pursuing a sinister story about the links
between a shadowy ultra-nationalist gang known as Ergenekon and a
branch of the Turkish military. Ergenekon is suspected of carrying out
extra-judicial killings in Kurdish areas. The paper has also dared to
affirm the Armenian genocide.

The paper is the subject of a lengthy article by Suzy Hansen in today's
issue of The National, the UAE-based daily. She reports:

"Taraf owes its boldness to a luxury that is increasingly rare ` and
not just in Turkey: an independent owner who does not interfere with
the work of his editors. Taraf's founder Basar Arslan, a 40-year-old
bookstore owner and publisher, wasn't particularly active in politics
before launching Taraf, and he still shies away from the public eye...

"He called up a few of his friends to recruit them to produce a small
daily that represented their liberal views, what he envisioned as 'a
very prestigious, independent paper, according to Yasemin Congar,
[deputy] editor, who added: 'Now he loves it.'"

He must do because it is reputed to cost him £342,000 a month to
publish Taraf, and Turkish corporations have recently announced that
they will not advertise in the paper, supposedly out of fear. Now the
paper's few ads usually appear on a single page.

Taraf's many critics, including those at the highest levels of
government and the military, have suggested that the paper is secretly
funded by Islamic groups. But there is no sign of Islamist sympathies
in its pages. However, there is persistent criticism of the military
and of its dealings with the Kurdish population.

Jenny White, an academic who has written extensively on Turkey and
lives on-and-off in Istanbul, says: "I'm amazed it hasn't been shut
down."

But neither Taraf's declining financial fortunes nor the threat of
anti-speech trials seems to worry the staff. Congar said: "We receive
e-mail threats, personal death threats ` I do, and Ahmet does, and
probably some of the columnists do."

(Sources: Der Spiegel/The National/The Guardian/Wikpiedia)