Lawyers condemn crackdown on critical media as police raid Zaman media group

Turkish police have raided two newspapers and a weekly magazine in the latest in a series of attempts to silence the critical media, with lawyers condemning the act as an andquotillegal raidandquot and another wave of media crackdown.
As Zaman daily, Turkeyand’s best-selling paper, was preparing to finalize its Thursdayand’s issue, dozens of riot police and water cannon vehicles gathered outside the newspaperand’s headquarters in Istanbuland’s Yenibosna neighborhood in what Zaman said was a andquotthreat to the free media.andquot A police helicopter was hovering above the newspaper, with its powerful projector shedding its light on reporters gathered outside to watch the police storming their offices.
The raid, which came amidst rumors that the media outlet is among the targets of the government after another critical media group was seized late last month, was carried out over claims that the andOzgandur Bugandun daily — which was launched after trustees were appointed to the Bugandun dailyand’s administration in a controversial decision — was being printed at a printing house belonging to the Zaman daily.
Early on Thursday, when the armored police vehicles were still parked outside the newspaper, Zaman media groupand’s lawyers issued a powerful statement, rejecting the police search as andquotanother illegal raidandquot on the critical and independent media. Lawyers described the Wednesdayand’s raid on Zaman media as andquotshamefulandquot at a time when the world is fixed its gaze on Turkey for being the host for G-20 summit this week.
A copy of BakirkandOy 3rd Penal Court of Peaceand’s decision for a search at Zaman that circulated on Twitter revealed that Bugandunand’s lawyers asked the court to seize the printing house of Zaman on the grounds that it publishes andOzgandur Bugandun, but the court rejected the request. The court reportedly pointed to Article 30 of the Constitution which says andquota 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.andquot The court allowed the police to come and picked up three copies of the andOzgandur Bugandun newspaper, if any.

Lawyers of Zaman media group said the same prosecutorand’s office in BakirkandOy already receives three copies of every published newspaper in the nation, as a legal obligation.
Although police was expected to search only the printing house of the daily based on a court decision in this regard, they returned to the building after an andquotanonymous callandquot and searched the newsrooms of Zaman, Todayand’s Zaman and the Aksiyon weekly, the lawyers said.
As the search was still underway at the printing house, pro-government journalists began tweeting photos featuring copies of the andOzgandur Bugandun daily dated Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, claiming that andquotpirated copiesandquot of the Bugandun daily were found during the search. The photo was allegedly sent to the journalists by Bugandun lawyers who were present during the search. The lawyers claim that andOzgandur Bugandun violates Bugandun dailyand’s trademark rights.

The lawyers said the court decision to pick up three copies of the newspaper, a simple act in fact, was transformed into a massive search in the offices of the newspapers. They added that dozens of riot police, armored police vehicles and a police helicopter was employed in this andquotillegal raid against the free media.andquot
andquotPolice raids against free media has become a routine,andquot the lawyers said. The statement said the Zaman media group will launch a legal battle to ask about the illegal intrusion into the company.
andquotWe strongly condemn illegal acts that violate the Constitution and aimed at silencing and eliminating the free media. No matter what, we believe that our country wonand’t return back from democracy,andquot the statement concluded.
Critics fear the government is trying to create a pretext finally to seize the Zaman daily, one of the few remaining critical media groups in Turkey, with Wednesdayand’s raid.
Police raided the headquarters of a number of media outlets early on Oct. 28 after the Ankara 5th Criminal Court of Peace ruled on Oct. 26 for the takeover of the administration of Koza ipek Holdingand’s companies, which includes critical media outlets in the ipek Media Group, in a government-backed move. The trustees then took over the management of the Bugandun and Millet dailies, as well as the stations Bugandun TV and Kanaltandurk, following the police intervention, during which many journalists and protesters were subjected to excessive police force.

Water cannon vehicles and riot police waited outside Zaman during the raid. (Photos: Todayand’s Zaman, Usame Ari)
The Bugandun and Millet dailies published their first editions after the trusteesand’ takeover on Oct. 30. Both papers contained what could be interpreted as propaganda from the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with almost no reports on opposition parties, despite a general election being due to take place on Nov. 1. The newspapers under the management of the new trustees have since been turned into mouthpieces of the AK Party and Erdogan. The new management has also fired tens of journalists working at those newspapers and hired pro-government journalists instead.
In reaction to the new pro-government stance taken by their confiscated dailies, the editors of the Bugandun daily who had been fired started preparing an alternative edition of the paper to provide a platform for the publication of pieces they produce independently. The new website has attracted great interest and support from readers.
Wednesdayand’s police raid comes amidst increasing pressure on free media in Turkey and speculations over governmentand’s plans to seize the Zaman Media Group, one of the largest media groups in Turkey that also encompasses Todayand’s Zaman.
Last week, Turkish whistleblower Fuat Avni claimed that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ordered the appointment of trustees to seize media outlets close to the Gandulen movement inspired by Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gandulen.
The whistleblower stated that Erdogan is planning to implement all his and”plotsand” against the critical media before losing the and”virtual powerand” he acquired following the Nov. 1 snap election that brought a landslide victory to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) he co-founded.
and”They want to finish the Cemaat [the movementand’s] media immediately and then move on to other media [outlets that are critical of government]. He [Erdogan] ordered the appointment of trustees to the Samanyolu Group and the Zaman daily. They are next,and” he tweeted.
Many in Turkey are concerned that the government crackdown on critical and independent media has reached such a point that takeovers will soon engulf other media groups. Government whistleblower Avni claimed back in August that Koza ipek and later the Aydin Dogan media group would be seized by the government.
An anonymous AK Party-linked account, @WUAttack — notorious for targeting government critics through hatemongering andndash also tweeted on Wednesday as police raided Zaman that the daily was going to be seized after the conclusion of a G-20 summit to be held in Turkey on Nov. 15-16.

SOURCE: TODAY’S ZAMAN

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