Zaman Takeover: Authorities Take Control of Turkey’s Biggest Newspaper
The biggest Turkish newspaper, Zaman, has condemned its takeover by the authorities in a defiant last edition published just before police raided it.
March 5 edition said Turkey’s press had experienced “one of the darkest days in its history”.
Police raided Zaman‘s offices hours after a court ruling placed it under state control, but managers were still able to get the edition to print.
Zaman readers are protesting against the takeover outside the offices.
Unconfirmed reports say police have now dispersed the protest, numbering about 500 people, with tear gas and water cannon.
Zaman is closely linked to the Hizmet movement of influential US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey says is a “terrorist” group aiming to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
Fethullah Gulen was once an ally of Recep Tayyip Erdogan but the two fell out.
Many Hizmet supporters have been arrested.
The government in Ankara has come under increasing international criticism over its treatment of journalists.
Zaman’s latest edition was printed before the government-backed administrators had taken control.
“The Constitution is suspended,” a headline in large font on a black background reads on the front page.
“The Turkish press has experienced one of the darkest days in its history,” the paper adds.
“Turkey’s mass circulation newspaper was seized despite Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s assurance that <<free press is our redline>>.”
The English-language echoed its sister paper with the headline: “Shameful day for free press in Turkey.”
The court ruled on March 4 that Zaman, which has a circulation of some 650,000, should now be run by administrators. No explanation was given.
Police entered the building in Istanbul on March 4, firing tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside.
Hundreds of Zaman supporters defied the police. One held a placard saying: “We will fight for a free press.”
“I believe that free media will continue even if we have to write on the walls,” Zaman‘s editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici said shortly before the raid.
“I don’t think it is possible to silence media in the digital age.”
Abdulhamit Bilici was speaking to the Cihan news agency, which was also affected by the court order.