Turkish government seizes control of best-selling opposition newspaper

Special to WorldTribune.com

One of the few remaining independent voices that routinely published viewpoints opposite of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been taken over by the Turkish government.

Zaman, Turkey’s best-selling opposition newspaper, came under government control on March 4 as Erdogan’s government continued its assault on press freedom.

Turkish anti riot police officers launch water cannon and tear gas at supporters of Zaman in Istanbul. /Ozan Kose/AFP
Turkish police launch water cannon and tear gas at supporters of Zaman in Istanbul. /Ozan Kose/AFP

Protesters opposed to the takeover were pelted with tear gas and drenched with water cannons outside the newspaper’s Istanbul headquarters as security services “initiated a court-ordered process to install government-appointed trustees at the helm of the opposition paper,” according to a report by Middle East Eye.

Zaman was seen as loyal to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a hated enemy of Erdogan. It was one of the few independent media outlets in Turkey that did not hold back in criticizing Erdogan’s government.

“Since a defiant last edition published on Saturday (March 5), the paper has been filled with bland, pro-government filler stories out of keeping with its former editorial stance,” the Middle East Eye report said.

Since Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came into power, “more and more of Turkey’s mainstream media outlets have fallen into the hands of conglomerates and holding companies belonging to businesspersons with close ties to the government, often after a transitional period under state control following asset seizures by the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey (TMSF). Many of these new media owners have far more lucrative businesses that rely on government tenders and, as such, have vested interests in keeping the government happy,” the report said.

Turkey’s print and broadcast media “is increasingly becoming monotone in its coverage as the space for dissenting voices constantly shrinks and media pluralism erodes. And for those sections of the media that cannot be controlled via their owners, there’s an array of means of judicial harassment available to zealous Turkish prosecutors,” according to the Middle East Eye report.

“The plight of the Kurdish and pro-Kurdish media is particularly worrying. A number of pro-Kurdish outlets have been taken off air in recent times – including the popular IMC TV – and the majority of Turkey’s imprisoned journalists hail from the pro-Kurdish press. In a country polarised by a bitter domestic conflict, news coverage of the fighting is ever more uniform.”

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