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Turkey: heightened concerns over press freedom as Zaman reopens

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Turkey: heightened concerns over press freedom as Zaman reopens


Turkey’s top-selling opposition newspaper has reopened following a state takeover and subsequent police raid.

Staff at Zaman have posted photos online of armed forces appearing to surround the publication’s offices in Istanbul.

A state-appointed trusteeship has now been ordered to take over the newspaper.

State media said the raid was carried out at the request of a prosecutor investigating Fethullah Gulen, a U.S-based cleric who is accused of trying to topple the government.

Journalist ‘briefly arrested’

Authorities used water cannon and fired tear gas at protesters before forcing their way into the offices. One German journalist who was covering the incident was briefly detained, German media report.

A Reporters Without Borders report published in December, 2015, found Turkey had the fifth highest number of imprisoned journalists worldwide. China, Egypt, Iran and Eritrea placed first to fourth in the rankings.

Concerns over press freedom

The raid and transfer of management at Zaman have further heightened concerns about press freedom in Turkey.

Rights groups and European and US officials have criticised the takeover of the newspaper and its sister publication, Today’s Zaman, which is printed in English.

Its Editor-in-Chief told the press:
“The government has been practising a wide range of witch-hunt. As President Erdogan once said: ‘witch-hunt? If this is called witch-hunt, let it be. We are going to do it.’ So he openly declared that they are going to do it and they are, they are executing a wide range of witch-hunt against opponents at the moment.”

The US State Department labelled the incident “the latest in a series of troubling judicial and law enforcement actions taken by the Turkish government.”

Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index places Turkey 149th out of 180 countries.

It compares poorly with the European Union countries Turkish officials are meeting at a summit today (March 5).

Germany, for example, comes in at number 12, Portugal is at 26 and Spain and the UK come in at 33 and 34 respectively.

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