Trustees have been appointed by an Istanbul court to take over the management of the Feza Media Group, which includes Turkey’s biggest-selling newspaper, the Zaman daily, as well as the Today’s Zaman and the Cihan news agency.
Dealing a another blow to the already battered media freedom in Turkey, the decision was issued by the Istanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace at the request of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, which claimed that the media group acted upon orders from what it called the “Fethullahist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure (FETÖ/PDY),” praising the group and helping it achieve its goals in its publications.
The prosecutor also claimed that the alleged terrorist group is cooperating with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) terrorist organisation to topple the Turkish government and that high-level officials of the two groups have had meetings abroad.
The court decision means that the entire management and the editorial board of Feza Media Group companies will be replaced by the three-member board named by the court.
Zaman Editor-in-Chief Abdulhamit Bilici addressed his colleagues on the grounds of the newspaper, calling the court decision a “black day for democracy” in Turkey as journalists and other newspaper workers held up signs that read: “Don’t touch my newspaper” and chanted “free press cannot be silenced!”
“Today, we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized,” Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Sevgi Akarçeşme said as she addressed the crowd.
“As of today, the Constitution has been suspended,” she said, referring to the fact that the Turkish Constitution forbids seizure of printing houses and press equipment.
Şahin Alpay, a veteran political expert and a columnist for both Zaman and Today’s Zaman, lamented the situation, saying Turkey is having a “dark day” when one of the most prominent media outlets in the country is being confiscated at the order of a political leader.
“It is utterly saddening, particularly for people of my generation, that Turkey is turning into a third-world dictatorship,” Alpay said.
The takeover of Zaman comes as President Erdogan and the AKP government that he co-founded, ramped up pressure on the Turkish media. Zaman, which is affiliated with the Gülen movement, is one of the few opposition media outlets in the country, which are mainly dominated by pro-government television stations and newspapers.