The Nobel Prize winning novelist Orhan Pamuk took over a Turkish newspaper for a day, and devoted Sunday’s front page to criticism of the oppression of artists in his native country.
Pamuk, whose trial last year on a charge of “insulting Turkishness” received international condemnation before it was dropped on a technicality, earned a degree in journalism but had never practiced the profession before becoming the one-day editor in chief at Radikal.
His cover story criticized the Turkish press and government for suppressing free expression.
Its banner headline quoted a 1951 article that encouraged Turks to spit on Nazim Hikmet, an acclaimed poet and denounced communist who spent years in prison for his leftist affiliations and later died in Moscow. His sorrowful exile inspired many of his best-known poems.
The 1951 article featured Hikmet’s photograph along with an encouragement for the Turkish public to recognize him and “spit in his face.”
“This expression, which was used beside Nazim Hikmet’s picture, summarizes the unchanging position of writers and artists in the eyes of the state and the press,” Pamuk’s story said.
Pamuk, whowon the Nobel literature prize last year, is reviled by many in Turkey, where nationalists accuse him of treason for talking about the killings of ethnic Armenians and Kurds.
He is one of dozens of authors, journalists, publishers and scholars who have been charged with insulting Turkey, its officials or “Turkishness,” a crime under a portion of the Turkish penal code that has drawn strong criticism from the West.
There was no official reaction to Pamuk’s issue of Radikal, which has a circulation of just 33,000 but is considered one of Turkey’s most important intellectual newspapers. Its editor in chief, Ismet Berkan, who faced similar charges as Pamuk last year, invited the author to run the paper for a day.
In one corner of Radikal’s front page, Pamuk addressed writers directly in a friendly, self-effacing column under the headline, “I was a journalist for Radikal yesterday!”
He said the editorship for a day was a way to realize years of unfulfilled professional dreams, but added that he lost all confidence on the way to work at the newspaper’s offices.
Pamuk took credit for any stories that readers might not like, and gave credit for the articles they did like to the regular journalists of Radikal.
His front page also featured anarticle about a ceremony for Orthodox Christmas in Istanbul, the biggest city in predominantly Muslim Turkey that was once the Christian capital of the Byzantine empire.
The story’s headline read “One cross, a thousand police” — a reference to security concerns that surround the Istanbul-based leader of the Orthodox church and Turkey’s dwindling Greek Orthodox community. Turkish nationalists, who are deeply suspicious of the church, have occasionally interrupted the Christmas service.
Other articles on Pamuk’s front page dealt with the low percentage of women in politics in Turkey and reaction to the video of Saddam Hussein’s execution in Iraq.