Veteran Turkish journalist Mehmet Ali Birand dies at age 71

Mehmet Ali Birand (Photo: Today's Zaman, Mine Çaha)
17 January 2013 / TODAY'S ZAMAN, Ä°STANBUL,

Chairman of the Kanal D News Group and veteran journalist Mehmet Ali
Birand who advocated more freedoms and democracy in Turkey during a
career spanning 48 years, has died. He was 71.
His son Umur says Birand, who had cancer, died in Ä°stanbul on Thursday
from an infection.

Birand began his career with Milliyet newspaper in 1964 but became
better known for a series of interviews and documentaries produced in
the 1980s. His books on Turkey's EU membership bid, its military and
its intervention of Cyprus were translated into several languages.

Birand was among a number of liberal journalists who were fired by
their bosses in 1997 under pressure from the military, which also
toppled a pro-Islamic government.

Birand was taken to the American Hospital in Ä°stanbul for an operation
to replace a stent in his gallbladder on Wednesday and was kept in
intensive care.

Birand, who covers political and diplomatic affairs, has been
practicing journalism in Turkey since the late 1970s. He interviewed
numerous world leaders in the late Cold War era, including
then-British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late leader of the
Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) Yasser Arafat and Iraqi
dictator Saddam Hussein.

Birand's program `32. Gün' (32nd Day) became a brand name in news
broadcasting in the 1980s and trained many well-known TV journalists
in Turkey.

He also witnessed several key political developments abroad and at
home, including military coups, and he received harsh criticism from
the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) for his stance on the Kurdish issue in
the 1990s.

Birand likewise drew ire from secular circles when he confessed that
most Turkish seculars had been happy to see a military intervention on
Feb. 28, 1997, rather than live under a government led by a
conservative party.

Birand, a prominent journalist, columnist, anchor and above all an
investigative reporter, was born on Dec. 9, 1941, in Ä°stanbul's
BeyoÄ?lu district. The son of Mürvet and Ä°zzet Birand, who were
originally from ElazıÄ? province, Birand was ethnically Kurdish.

He studied at Galatasaray High School and started his professional
career at the Milliyet daily in 1964. He worked briefly as the
editor-in-chief of Milliyet.

He wrote columns for the Sabah daily, and produced and presented the
program `32. Gün' for the channels TRT and Show TV. He was also an
anchor for Show TV from 1992-1995. While a senior executive at the CNN
Türk channel, Birand was also presenting `32. Gün' on Kanal D. Birand
spoke fluent French and English and was also a citizen of Belgium.

He was married and a father to Umur Ali.