Press bodies, journalists slam police raid on Zaman as an act of intimidation

Leading press organizations, rights groups and journalists in the country have strongly criticized the police raid on the premises of the Zaman Media Group in Istanbul on Wednesday evening, saying the raid was conducted unlawfully and aimed to intimidate journalists.
Police broke into the newsrooms of the Zaman and Todayand’s Zaman dailies and the Aksiyon weekly magazine, part of the Zaman Media Group, in the Yenibosna neighborhood of Istanbul late on Wednesday, with helicopters hovering above and water cannon vehicles and riot police in front of the building.
The raid came amidst rumors that the media outlet was among the governmentand’s targets, after another critical media group, the ipek Media Group, was seized late last month. The police raid on the three critical media outlets 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.
Although police were expected to search only the printing house of the daily based on a court decision to that effect, they returned to the building after an andquotanonymous callandquot and searched the newsrooms of Zaman, Todayand’s Zaman and the Aksiyon weekly, journalists in the building said.
Releasing a statement on Thursday, Turkeyand’s Press Council said the evening raid on the Zaman daily is aimed at intimidation and defiance, describing it as unacceptable.
The statement said the courtand’s decision to only search the printing house of the daily was disregarded and the newsrooms of Zaman and Todayand’s Zaman and the Aksiyon magazine were also searched in an unlawful manner and the journalists were prevented from performing their jobs.
andquotThis is an obvious attempt of censorship,andquot the Press Counciland’s statement added.
Contemporary Journalists Association (andcGD)hairman Ahmet Abakay said developments such as the police raid on the Zaman Media Group refute Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoiluand’s claim to stand up for media freedom.
Davutoilu said during a recent interview with CNN international that media freedom is a andquotpersonal red lineandquot for him and if thereand’s an attack on any intellectual or columnist or a journalist, he will defend them.
andquotI call on the prime minister to watch out and care for the red line he mentioned,andquot said Abakay.
Human Rights Association (iHD) head andOztandurk TanDogan, who also described Wednesdayand’s police raid as andquotan act of intimidation,andquot told Todayand’s Zaman the use of helicopters, water cannon vehicles and riot police in the raid shows that pressure is being imposed on the media group.
Confederation of Public Sector Trade Unions (KESK) head Lami andOzgen said the police raids on newspaper buildings are all arbitrary and based on political motivations.
andquotThis country no longer has laws and a Constitution. These raids are the result of personal ambitions and revengeful feelings,andquot he said.
The Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government and then Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched an all-out war against the faith-based Gandulen movement following the becoming public of a graft probe in late 2013 that implicated Erdoganand’s inner circle. Erdogan accuses the movement of masterminding the probe with an aim to topple his government while the movement strongly denies the accusation.
The Zaman and ipek media groups have been placed on the governmentand’s target list due to their ties with the Gandulen movement.
Veteran journalist Taha Akyol, a columnist in the Handurriyet daily, also slammed the police raid on Zaman, saying it is a move showing the authoritarianism and violation of the law in the country.
Cumhuriyet daily columnist Ceyda Karan questioned why the police raid on Zaman was conducted with water cannon vehicles while the country has been shaken by terrorist attacks over the past months.
andquotWhile Turkey has so many problems and we experienced massacres in one month and many of us buried their loved ones, why are you raiding a newspaper building in this way?andquot she asked.
Turkey witnessed the bloodiest terrorist attack in its history in Ankara last month that claimed the lives of 102 people. The attack is the work of radical terrorist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), according to initial reports.
Prominent journalist Cengiz andcandar, who is currently being investigated over charges of insulting the president in seven of his articles in the digital Radikal newspaper, said Turkey is going through a period when it is impossible to talk about freedom of the press. He said Davutoiluand’s remark about media freedoms being a red line for him is just empty talk.
Well-known journalist and writer Oya Baydar said the unlawful and arbitrary pressure on the media today was unseen even during the era of the coup regimes in Turkey.
Professor Mehmet Altan described the police raid on Zaman as the steps of a black fascism with some political Islamist and”sauceand” on it.
He said the raid is part of a perception management operation that is aimed at covering up the corruption allegations about the government.


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