Thursday 29 September 2016

Tear gas and water cannons used against crowds protesting Government seizure of Turkey's largest newspaper

David Kearns

Published 05/03/2016 | 13:06

Riot police use tear gas against people gathered in support of Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper Zaman Credit: AP Photo
Riot police use tear gas against people gathered in support of Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper Zaman Credit: AP Photo
Riot police use tear gas to disperse protesting employees and supporters of Zaman newspaper at the courtyard of the newspaper's office in Istanbul, Turkey, late March 4, 2016. Turkish authorities seized control of the country's largest newspaper on Friday in a widening crackdown against supporters of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, an influential foe of President Tayyip Erdogan. REUTERS/Selahattin Sevi/Zaman Daily EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVE

Turkish police fired tear gas and plastic pellets into a crowd of 2,000 protesters gathered outside the country's biggest newspaper after the authorities seized control of it.

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Police raided the offices of the Zaman at midnight, following a Government decision to take over the management of the media group.

A court on Friday appointed an administrator to run the newspaper, and its the English-language edition Today's Zaman, following a request by a state prosecutor investigating the group's links to US-based muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused of working together with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to topple the Turkish government. 

Footage taken by staff at the newspaper shows police firing tear gas and using water cannons to disperse crowds outside Zaman offices, who had gathered to prevent the take over, before forcibly breaking down the building's frontdoor.

Zaman Editor-in-Chief Sevgi Akarcesme said during the raid she was pushed by police as authorities escorted her out of the building.

“A police officer grabbed my phone forcefully while I was broadcasting on Periscope. I'll sue him when the rule of law is back. Unbelievable!” she tweeted.

“This is beyond comprehension! Such a sad day in Turkey!” 

The daily newspaper confirmed that police had gone to the management floor in the building and had shut out editors and journalists from their offices.

Water canons were used to disperse those gathered in support of Zaman outside its headquarters in Istanbul Credit: AP
Water canons were used to disperse those gathered in support of Zaman outside its headquarters in Istanbul Credit: AP

There has also been reports alleging that police confiscated the mobile phones and tablets of staff.

The raid began shortly before midnight after a day of standoffs between police and opposition protesters furious about what they have called "a government crackdown on free press". 

The decision by Istanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace to remove the management of the Zaman was granted after a request by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office, which has accused the publication of taking orders from what it calls the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETO/PDY).”

Following the court ruling, the newspaper editorial team released a statement calling the takeover the “darkest and gloomiest” for the freedom of the press in Turkey.

Riot police cut off the gate to enter the headquarters of Zaman newspaper in Istanbul Credit: Turgut Engin/Zaman Daily (REUTERS)
Riot police cut off the gate to enter the headquarters of Zaman newspaper in Istanbul Credit: Turgut Engin/Zaman Daily (REUTERS)
Journalists react as riot police enter the headquarters of Zaman. The police raid came hours after a court placed it under the management of trustees Credit: AP
Journalists react as riot police enter the headquarters of Zaman. The police raid came hours after a court placed it under the management of trustees Credit: AP
Abdulhamit Bilici (C), editor-in-chief of Zaman, as police escort him from the building. The move against the paper, which is linked to an opposition cleric, heightened concerns over deteriorating press freedoms in the country Credit: AP
Abdulhamit Bilici (C), editor-in-chief of Zaman, as police escort him from the building. The move against the paper, which is linked to an opposition cleric, heightened concerns over deteriorating press freedoms in the country Credit: AP
Riot police members (L) argue with editorial staff of Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper Zaman as they raid its headquarters in Istanbul Credit: AP

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