The first issue of Turkey’s largest opposition newspaper, Zaman, was released Sunday since it was seized by the government in a midnight Saturday raid. It was met with widespread condemnation.
As many noted on Twitter, the paper’s front page appeared to have transformed overnight into a “propaganda machine” for the regime. It mentioned nothing about the raid on Zaman’s headquarters the night before and featured headlines praising the government’s work on a new bridge and its strengthening business ties with Iran.
Here is the cover:
The last “free” issue of Zaman was released the day before it was seized. The headline read, “Constitution suspended,” above an excerpt from Turkey’s constitution that forbids seizure of printing houses and press equipment:
Many of Zaman’s journalists were preparing for the raid after a
court ordered that the paper be confiscated for allegedly acting as a mouthpiece for the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY).”
The “parallel state structure” is what Turkish President Recep Erdogan calls the Gülen movement — a social movement led by the Turkish scholar and preacher Fethullah Gülen that is openly critical of Erdogan’s government.
It is not the first time Zaman has been targeted. Zaman’s then-editor in chief, Ekrem Dumanli, was arrested in December 2014 on charges of forming and leading a terrorist organisation. He he was released five days later.
Sevgi Akarcesme, editor-in-chief of Zaman’s English-language counterpart Today’s Zaman, was put on trial in August after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, a member of the ruling AKP party, sued her for “insulting” him on Twitter.
Akarcesme had tweeted that “Davutoğlu, the prime minister of the government that covered up the corruption investigation, has eliminated press freedom in Turkey.”
Zaman’s management and editorial boards have been replaced by a three-member board consisting of pro-government “trustees.” The paper’s current editor-in-chief, Abdülhamit Bilici, had his contract voided by the trustees.
In a statement, US State Department spokesman John Kirby called the takeover “troubling.”
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