In a dramatic raid, the Turkish authorities today seized the headquarters of a newspaper which ardently opposes President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his regime. The forces used tear gas and water cannon outside the HQ of the Zaman daily, following a court order. The paper, closely linked to Erdogan’s arch-foe, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, was ordered into administration by the court on the request of Istanbul prosecutors.
However, Zaman’s editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici was quoted as saying by the Cihan news agency just before the police raid that democracy will continue and free media will not be silent. “I believe that free media will continue even if we have to write on the walls. I don’t think it is possible to silence media in the digital age,” he told Cihan, part of the Zaman media group.
The swoop caused immediate concern in Washington and Brussels amid the intensifying worries over the climate for freedom of expression in Turkey. EU enlargement commissioner Johannes Hahn said he was “extremely worried”. The United States, said the court order it was “the latest in a series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government targeting media outlets and others critical of it.”
“We urge Turkish authorities to ensure their actions uphold the universal democratic values enshrined in their own constitution, including freedom of speech and especially freedom of the press,” State Department spokesman John Kirby said.
The Erdogan government accuses Gulen of running what it calls the Fethullahaci Terror Organisation/Parallel State Structure (FeTO/PDY) and seeking to overthrow the legitimate Turkish authorities. Anatolia said the court order was issued on the grounds that Zaman supported the activities of this “terror organisation”.
The crackdown follows the prosecution of almost 2,000 journalists, bloggers and ordinary citizens, including high school students, on accusations of insulting Erdogan.
Independent pro-Kurdish television channel IMV TV was taken off air in Turkey last weekend following accusations that it broadcast “terrorist propaganda” for militants.
The raid on Zaman comes as Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu heads to Brussels Monday for a crucial summit meeting with EU leaders.