Outrage followed Erdogan’s latest blow to press freedom, taking over Turkey’s largest circulation broadsheet – Zaman and its English language Today’s Zaman edition, a brazen example of police state viciousness.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the takeover Erdogan’s “latest attempt…to silence critical media.”
Amnesty International (AI) blasted what it called “the latest deeply troubling episode in the Turkish authorities’ ongoing onslaught on dissenting media.”
“By lashing out and seeking to rein in critical voices…Erdogan’s government is steamrolling over human rights.”
“A free and independent media, together with the rule of law and independent judiciary, are the cornerstones of internationally guaranteed freedoms which are the right of everyone in Turkey.”
In its annual report on human rights, AI documented the deplorable state of things in Turkey. Free expression and assembly are curtailed, media pressured relentlessly to support regime policy.
Excessive police force is rampant, torture and abuse in detention notorious, an independent judiciary virtually nonexistent.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) expressed outrage over Zaman’s takeover, its executive director Joel Simon, saying the “move…paves the way to effectively strangle the remnants of critical journalism in Turkey.”
International Press Institute (IPI) Advocacy and Communications director Steven Ellis called Friday’s action “extremely troubling,” saying Turkey under Erdogan “appears…willing…to muzzle (anyone) dar(ing) to criticize (regime) policies” – especially when revealing state-sponsored wrongdoing.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers director Andrew Heslop condemned Erdogan’s move, saying “(w)e stand in solidarity with our friends and colleagues at Zaman in categorically denouncing this latest (regime) assault on press freedom…”
Reporters Without Borders’ secretary-general Christophe Deloire said Erdogan’s “interference in the media has reached a new level,” condemning what he called “illegitimate and intolerable.”
Peaceful protests continued on Saturday, riot police attacking demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets, able to cause serious injury or death.
RT International’s Paula Slier was caught up in what happened, saying “we’ve been heavily tear-gassed, so we ran for cover…People…are wiping their eyes. Some are sitting on the ground trying to recover.”
Unknown numbers of injuries and arrests followed. On Friday, a rubber-stamp regime controlled court ordered Zaman’s takeover.
Erdogan-designated trustees replaced management, staff forcefully removed from the broadsheet’s offices, some in handcuffs.
Zaman’s Internet connections were cut, removal of its web content underway.
War on free expression rages. Erdogan wants all criticism of his policies stifled, especially revelations of state-sponsored wrongdoing.
Obama and John Kerry remain silent, partnering in Erdogan’s worst crimes.
Turkey’s War on Free Expression
Journalists, academics, public figures, human rights activists, even young children criticizing regime policy risk imprisonment on charges ranging from insulting the president to terrorism, espionage or treason.
Turkey imprisons more journalists than any other country. Istanbul-based Zaman and its English language edition, Today’s Zaman, is the nation’s largest circulation broadsheet.
On Friday, Erdogan seized control of its operations, continuing his war on free expression, tolerating no dissent, wanting critical voices silenced – using state prosecutors and rubber-stamp courts to serve his interests.
Press freedom in Turkey sustained another major body blow. New management and staff will replace current personnel. Friday was the last day Zaman and Today’s Zaman could comment freely.
It released a statement, expressing grave concern about what it called “the darkest and gloomiest days in terms of freedom of the press (and) rule of law.”
“Journalists are now frequenting courts, not their newsrooms.” Many are imprisoned for doing their jobs.
“Two TV channels from the opposite ends of the political spectrum, Benguturk TV and İMC TV, have recently been dropped from the state-run communications satellite Turksat” – the same crackdown used against other broadcasters to silence them.
Erdogan ignores constitutional law. Article 26 “safeguards freedom of expression and thought…”
Articles 28 and 30 guarantee freedom of the press, stating:
“A printing house and its annexes, duly established as a press enterprise under law, and press equipment shall not be seized, confiscated or barred from operation on the grounds of having been used in a crime.”
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, binding on Turkey, states:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.”
Zaman and Today’s Zaman have been heavily “pressure(d)” by regime authorities “for more than two years,” its now ousted management said – using “accreditation bans, tax inspections, meddling with its advertisers and threats to its readers.”
“We have now been threatened with confiscation through the appointment of trustees. We are deeply concerned about all these developments that undermine Turkey’s democratic performance.”
“We believe the only way out of this nightmarish atmosphere is to return to democracy and the rule of law. We are publishing our concerns to inform the Turkish nation, intellectuals who believe in democracy and the wider world.”
Separately, Zaman reported police in riot gear used tear gas and water cannons on a crowd of supporters, forcibly storming the broadsheet’s offices, scuffling with staff inside.
Zaman’s daily editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici called Friday’s state-ordered assault on press freedom “a black stain” on Turkish history.
Zaman’s editor-in-chief Sevgi Akarcesme said “(p)olice did not let us inside our offices in our own newspaper building. This is pure despotism. They physically blocked me, both men & women,” she tweeted.
Staff inside were ordered out. The order came from Istanbul’s Criminal Court of Peace on request from the chief public prosecutor’s office.
It claimed Zaman follows orders from what it called the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETO/PDY),” allied with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Turkey calls it a terrorist organization.
According to Zaman, “(t)his means that the entire management and the editorial board of Feza Media Group companies will be replaced by the three-member board named by the court.”
Addressing a crowd of supporters, editor-in-chief Akarcesme called Friday a “black day for democracy. Today we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized…(T)he Constitution has been suspended.”
Washington remains unconcerned. State Department spokesman admiral John Kirby merely calling Friday’s action “troubling” shows contempt for press freedom – stopping well short of condemnation and demanding reinstatement of Zaman’s staff.
A previous article said since August 2014 elections elevated Erdogan from prime minister to president (formerly a ceremonial role), reign of terror governance followed.
He’s been systematically solidifying his grip on power, despotic rule by any standard, seizing Zaman his latest police state action.