With more journalists arrested for "insulting the president" and one of the only critical media groups seized by the government, correspondents face greater pressure on their freedom to report.
Police are conducting raids on buildings and offices of newspapers. Journalists are being arrested for "insulting" the president and Western journalists deported for the subjects they report on.
Although it may sound much like a fragile Middle East country in the midst of an Arab Spring-like moment, this is Turkey in 2015. All these events have happened in the last 10 months.
Earlier this week, Koza Ipek media group was seized by the government, led by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) co-founded by the current president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Things took a turn for the worse when police stormed the offices of the media group as the channels were live on air. It was the latest incident in its crackdown on companies linked to a former ally turned foe of Mr Erdogan, Fethullah Gulen.
Companies and individuals linked to the US-based Islamic preacher have been targeted with arrests and similar raids in the last 18 months.
Koza Ipek is the parent group of Kanaltürk and Bugun TV and the 22 companies it owns were seized with authorities citing an investigation into alleged financial irregularities, including whether it funded Mr Gulen. The company denied the claims.
The former imam is the influence behind the Hizmet (service) Movement, which aims to promote Islam in a peaceful manner through schools, charities and media organisations. Its critics say it has too much power within Turkish structures including the police and even within the AKP.
The government goes so far as to call it a "parallel state" and justifies its arrests by saying the group is an enemy within the country.
On Wednesday, fights broke out outside their offices in Istanbul during the raids and the crackdown on the press comes just days before a critical election.
It was not the first time the group was targeted. Last month, there was a raid on Koza Ipek Holding in Ankara and the chairman's house had been searched, Reuters reported at the time.
Press freedom attacks getting worse
The raids did not just take place after the first general election in June. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks during which 12 people were killed in the French satirical magazine's office in Paris, Cumhuriyet newspaper was targeted because it intended to publish a four-page selection from Hebdo's new issue.
Cumhuriyet intended to offer an act of solidarity with the slain cartoonists and journalists, and those who survived.
Police arrived at the printing press of the daily in Istanbul and would not allow distribution initially until it was ensured that cartoons of Prophet Mohammed were not inside.
This is only a snapshot of what has happened in the last ten months to publishers but ahead of critical elections on November 1, it is a worrying trend of declining press freedom.
In the last two months, Western journalists have been deported from south-east Turkey while a journalist for Vice News, Mohammed Ismael Rasool, remains in prison without charge.
These arrests are accused of being politically motivated - to ensure coverage of the conflict in Turkey's south-east is restricted after the collapse of the ceasefire.
Until July, the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish state were engaged in peace talks but since the deadly Isil-linked terror attack in Suruc near the Syrian border, it has come to crashing end.
After the deaths of 33 young activists, majority of whom were Kurdish, PKK killed two policemen which the state reacted with further violence.
The difficulty covering the PKK-Turkish state conflict
Now journalists in the region face difficulties, not just from dangerous situation, but also from authorities questioning their activities.
Vice News journalists Philip Pendlebury and Jake Hanrahan with Rasool were arrested in late August and imprisoned by police who accused them of working on behalf of a terrorist organisation and assisting Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.
The men were reporting on clashes between the PKK youth wing and the authorities in Cizre when they were arrested.
They were moved into a maximum security prison and a few days later, they were deported back to the UK.
Hanrahan said the Iraqi-born journalist was innocent and urged the Turkish authorities to release him. "Rasool knows he is innocent, knows he hasn't done anything wrong. He hasn't committed a crime."
It has been two months since his arrest and the campaign for his release, entitled #FreeRasool, continues. Earlier this month, the Committee to Protect Journalists and Vice News launched a petition calling for his release.
The US put pressure on Turkey to ensure its actions were fair. Mark Toner, US state department, said: "We urge Turkish authorities to ensure that their actions vis-a-vis Rasool's case uphold universal democratic values, including obviously due process, freedom of expression and access to media and information.
"And you know as we said before media and due process are key elements of healthy democracy and in fact are enshrined in Turkey's constitution, in its OSCE commitments as well as in Turkey's international human rights obligation."
Apart from Rasool, the Turkish Contemporary Journalists' Association said 23 journalists were in jail and most worked for pro-Kurdish media and were accused of having links to Kurdish militants, according to Associated Press.
Hanrahan described how anyone reporting on controversial topics was subject to terror laws to restrict them.
"It's quite sad that anybody reporting on things that perhaps the government doesn't want them to report on is deemed a terrorist or these terrorist laws are used.
"Hopefully Turkey can prove that they are advocates of press freedom and start reversing the decisions they have made recently," he added.
'Of course I feel restricted and immense pressure'
Speaking to Turkish journalists, many of those critical of government describe a scenario in which they felt pressure to self-censor.
Cengiz Candar, a well-known veteran journalist in Turkey who has covered many Middle East conflicts, said during his visit in London of the "shortage of democracy and rule of law" in Turkey.
He spoke to the Telegraph in London on the day that Koza Ipek was seized and described the authorities' seizure as "outrageous".
"What has happened in terms of Koza is, if not the last, one of the nails in the coffin of press freedom in Turkey."
He admitted feeling pressure in his work and sometimes self-censoring, which includes working as a columnist for Al-Monitor's Turkey Pulse.
"Of course I feel restricted. There is immense pressure on the media and if you don't exercise self-censorship, you could end up in court. Your comments are seen as an insult to the president [Recep Tayyip Erdogan]."
In the last year, the number of prosecutions for insulting the head of state have risen. Those arrested included teenagers, journalists and artists.
Last week, a 14-year-old was freed by a court after he was detained by police accused of "insulting" the president.
At the start of the month, Ahmet Hakan, a columnist for Hürriyet newspaper and a presenter on CNN Turk, was beaten up and left with a broken nose and rib.
Four men were later taken into custody with suggestions that two were AKP members, Hurriyet Daily News reported.
Ayhan Sefer Ustun, a senior AKP official, condemned the attack: “Turkey is democracy, there is a state of law. We do not approve of or accept this attack."
'Nowhere in the world is the press freer'
The Turkish government denies that freedom of the press is under attack in the country, only last year, Mr Erdogan told a conference in Ankara, that "nowhere in the world is the press freer than it is in Turkey".
In a televised speech, he said: "The press is so free in Turkey that one can make insults, slander, defamation, racism and commit hate crimes that are not tolerated even in democratic countries."
"I’ve personally experienced this, so has my family," he added.
A Turkish government official told the Telegraph this week of the pressures Turkish media faced, often accused of being pro-AKP. He said they were subject to several legal complaints that Western media failed to react as angrily to.
According to the state, Mr Gulen is the government's opponent and those who are part of the movement, pursue their own agenda that goes against the government's.
Hasmet Babaoglu, a columnist at pro-government Sabah, dismissed suggestions of a decline in press freedom.
"Media is not an area of freedom as those who often mention freedom of the press think. Just as human rights are an ideological manipulation, so is freedom of the press an expression of ideological hegemony."
But those who have faced the wrath of the state, face arrest for what they tweet and remain behind bars accused of terror links because of their work will feel differently.
Ahead of important elections deciding the future of a country that was once on the ascendance, the right to criticise remains crucial to ensuring Turkish democracy flourishes.
Published on The Telegraph, 30 October 2015, Friday