November 12, 2015

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 "illegal raid" and another wave of media crackdown.

As Zaman daily, Turkey's best-selling paper, was preparing to finalize its Thursday's issue, dozens of riot police and water cannon vehicles gathered outside the newspaper's headquarters in İstanbul's Yenibosna neighborhood in what Zaman said was a "threat to the free media." 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 Özgür Bugün daily -- which was launched after trustees were appointed to the Bugün daily'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 group's lawyers issued a powerful statement, rejecting the police search as "another illegal raid" on the critical and independent media. Lawyers described the Wednesday's raid on Zaman media as "shameful" 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 Bakırköy 3rd Penal Court of Peace's decision for a search at Zaman that circulated on Twitter revealed that Bugün's lawyers asked the court to seize the printing house of Zaman on the grounds that it publishes Özgür Bugün, but the court rejected the request. The court reportedly pointed to Article 30 of the Constitution which says "a 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." The court allowed the police to come and picked up three copies of the Özgür Bugün newspaper, if any.

Lawyers of Zaman media group said the same prosecutor's office in Bakırköy 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 "anonymous call" and searched the newsrooms of Zaman, Today'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 Özgür Bugün daily dated Oct. 30 and Oct. 31, claiming that "pirated copies" of the Bugün daily were found during the search. The photo was allegedly sent to the journalists by Bugün lawyers who were present during the search. The lawyers claim that Özgür Bugün violates Bugün daily's trademark rights.

Published on Today's Zaman, 11 November 2015, Wednesday