It was protesting about the Turkish government’s takeover of the Feza Gazetecilik media company.
On Friday, the Turkish authorities took control of Feza’s newspapers, Zaman and Today’s Zaman. Late on Monday, the authorities also seized control of Feza’s news agency, Cihan.
Feta Gazetecilik backs the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, who is an influential foe of the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
He has accused Gülen of conspiring to overthrow his government by building a so-called terrorist network, with supporters in the judiciary, police and media. Turkey’s prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, has also referred to the Gülen movement as a terrorist organization. Gülen denies such charges.
In its letter to Davutoğlu, the CPJ urged him to fulfill pledges he made to its delegation in October 2014 to uphold the freedom of the press.
It registered its “dismay” at the takeover of the Feza media group. If not reversed, it said, it “will send a chilling message to Turkey’s remaining independent and critical journalists.”
The CPJ letter pointed to news reports and video footage of scenes outside Zaman’s Istanbul offices where police used tear gas and water cannons against journalists and protesters. It said:
“In a statement to the press, quoted by the independent newspaper Hurriyet Daily News on Sunday, you denied that government played any role in these developments, saying that the court ruling was judicial and apolitical and that the case should not be seen as a press freedom violation...It reminded Davutoğlu, who has been in Brussels negotiating with the European Union over the refugee crisis, that the raid on Feza followed similar action against another company, Koza Ipek, which owned news outlets that have since been shut down.
With all due respect, this account is not credible; the zealous conduct of at least two government agencies - the prosecutor’s office and the police - suggests the takeover was politicised.
Prosecutors undertook the judicial proceedings against Feza media group without any lawyer for the company present in court to dispute the allegations. Police then imposed the ruling with unnecessary brutality.”
Press freedom in Turkey “is under siege”, said the CPJ, “with increasing numbers of journalists in jail, violence against journalists on the rise, and critical news outlets officially harassed or obstructed.”
It concluded with a call to Davutoğlu to defend Turkey’s constitution and to “ensure that your country meets its commitments under international law, including its commitments to free expression.”
A copy of the letter, signed by the CPJ’s executive director, Joel Simon, was sent to President Erdoğan.
Published on The Guardian, 8 March 2016, Tuesday