Two journalists murdered in the darkness of the 90s: Kılıç and Güngen

Two journalists murdered in the darkness of the 90s: Kılıç and Güngen

By Aziz Oruç

In the turbulent and shadowy period of the 1990s in Turkey, two journalists, Kemal Kılıç and Halit Güngen, were tragically killed. Kılıç, a correspondent for Özgür Gündem in Şanlıurfa, a major city in southeastern Turkey, was shot on February 18, 1993. Güngen, working for the magazine 2000'e Doğru, was murdered in an armed attack at the magazine's Diyarbakır office on February 18, 1992. These two were among dozens of journalists targeted during one of Turkey’s darkest and most shameful eras.

This period was particularly perilous for journalists striving to report the truth and defend the public's right to information. Many were killed. Government officials of the time openly targeted journalists, with then-Prime Minister Süleyman Demirel infamously responding to a question about journalists in 1991 by saying, "They are not journalists, they are militants."

The list of journalists murdered includes Mehmet Sait Erten, Cengiz Altun, İzzet Kezer, Mecit Akgün, Hafız Akdemir, Çetin Ababay, Yahya Orhan, Hüseyin Deniz, Musa Anter, Hatip Kapçak, Namık Tarancı, Mehmet İhsan Karakuş, Ferhat Tepe, Nazım Babaoğlu, Seyfettin Tepe, and several others.

Bayram Balcı, a colleague of Kılıç, and Süleyman Cihangiroğlu, Güngen's brother, spoke to the Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) about their memories and the impact of these losses.

Kemal Kılıç began his journalism career in 1990 with Yeni Ülke and later represented Özgür Gündem in Şanlıurfa. He was also a member of the Human Rights Association (İHD) Şanlıurfa branch. Kılıç was killed by plainclothes soldiers in an armed attack on February 18, 1993. Recalling those days, Balcı described Kılıç as a devoted friend committed to his people's struggle for freedom. Despite threats and difficult times, they continued their work. Balcı learned of Kılıç's murder shortly after leaving their office that day. Balcı asserts that despite 31 years since the murder, those who believed they silenced Kılıç by killing him have been defeated. He emphasizes that truth is more sacred and powerful than the state.

Halit Güngen, a young journalist born in 1971 in Şırnak, a city in southeastern Turkey, started his journalism career at the magazine 2000'e Doğru in Diyarbakır in 1990. He was killed in an armed attack at the magazine's office two days after publishing a news report about Hizbullah training in the Çevik Kuvvet Center, on February 18, 1992, at just 21 years old.

Cihangiroğlu fondly remembers his brother as a figure central to his identity and a passionate journalist unafraid of seeking the truth and standing against injustice. He laments the loss of his brother but also speaks to the lasting impact of Güngen's journalistic spirit. Cihangiroğlu notes that censorship and suppression have always existed in Turkey, suggesting that the environment which led to Güngen's murder was a product of the era.

In the case of Kemal Kılıç, the only witness to the murder, night guard Ahmet Fidan, reported what he saw to the gendarmerie. However, his statement was not pursued, and he disappeared. The gun used to kill Kılıç, identified as a 9mm Czech pistol, was found on December 24 of the same year in Diyarbakır. It was linked to Hizbullah supporter Hüseyin Güney, who denied involvement in the Kılıç murder. After a five-year trial, Güney was convicted of being a Hizbullah member but not held responsible for the murders. Kılıç's family took the case to the European Court of Human Rights, which, in 2000, ordered Turkey to pay 39,000 Pounds in compensation.

Halit Güngen's case remained unsolved for eight years until it became part of the 31-defendant Hizbullah Main Case, covering 188 murders. Several suspects were named, with some receiving life sentences and others shorter terms. However, due to changes in the Turkish legal system, several suspects were released, and subsequent attempts to re-arrest them were unsuccessful.


Medya ve Hukuk Çalışmaları Derneği (MLSA) haber alma hakkı, ifade özgürlüğü ve basın özgürlüğü alanlarında faaliyet yürüten bir sivil toplum kuruluşudur. Derneğimiz başta gazeteciler olmak üzere mesleki faaliyetleri sebebiyle yargılanan kişilere hukuki destek vermektedir.