Police used tear gas and water cannons for a second day running on Saturday to disperse hundreds of protesters who gathered outside the headquarters of Zaman newspaper — now surrounded by police fences. Law enforcement officers stormed the building on Friday to enforce the court-ordered seizure of the publication, which is linked to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s top foe, U.S.-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.
The protesters chanted “free press cannot be silenced” and “Zaman cannot be silenced” as riot police used shields and fired tear gas to push back the crowd, sending demonstrators running into side streets for protection.
Some were seen rubbing their faces with pieces of lemon to mitigate the effects of the tear gas, the private Dogan news agency reported. A number of protesters were injured.
The Istanbul court’s appointment of trustees to manage Zaman and its sister outlets further reduced the number of opposition media organizations in Turkey, which is dominated by pro-government news outlets. It raised alarm bells over the deterioration of rights conditions in the NATO member nation, which also aspires for EU membership, just days before a March 7 meeting, in which EU leaders will try to convince Turkey to do more to curtail the flow of migrants traveling to Europe.
“The EU countries are preoccupied with their migration crisis, they are no longer concerned by rights violations in Turkey,” said Semih Idiz, columnist for the opposition Cumhuriyet and independent Daily Hurriyet newspapers. “They’ll say a few things as a matter of form, but they know they are dependent on Turkey.”
|The Saturday edition of |
the English-language Today’s Zaman,
published before the forced takeover.
Zaman’s seizure was part of an intensified crackdown on Gulen’s movement, which the government claims is attempting to topple it. Authorities accuse the movement’s followers of infiltrating police and the judiciary and of orchestrating corruption allegations in 2013 that implicated Erdogan’s inner circle, as part of their alleged bid to bring down the government.
Published on Casa Grande Dispatch, 7 March 2016, Monday