December 14, 2014

Turkish police raid Zaman building, attempt to detain editor

Turkey's anti-terrorism units have attempted to raid headquarters of the country's top-selling newspaper Zaman in an early-morning operation, with a goal to detain its editor-in-chief, but had to turn back due to protests by readers.

A group of police officials from İstanbul police anti-terrorism units arrived at the Zaman daily building in Yenibosna on Sunday morning and tried to enter the building amid slogans by protesters changing "free media cannot be silenced." The police officials were then allowed by the security to enter inside the building, but could not proceed further as heavy presence of protesters created a small stampede. The Zaman daily live broadcast the entire drama while the Turkish media largely preferred to remain indifferent to the police operation.

Much-anticipated police raid to Zaman put the entire staff of the newspaper to stay overnight in the newspaper in a show of defiance as they vowed to stay firm in the face of government crackdown. Throughout the night, newspaper editors and reporters, including this newspaper's editor-in-chief Bülent Keneş, tweeted to their anxious followers who displayed a wave of support on the social media.

The first raid to Zaman daily was reportedly aimed at detaining Zaman daily editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanlı, who was sitting in the administration floor. The officials said they could not "fulfill their task" because of the pressure and had to leave the building.

A Twitter user known by the pseudonym Fuat Avni, who has revealed many government-backed police operations to the public, claimed on Saturday that a major government-backed police operation targeting many journalists would kick off on Sunday.

Avni said on Saturday night that the raids, which were originally planned to take place early on Friday morning but were postponed after he revealed the secret plans, will be carried out beginning on Sunday.

The whistleblower tweeted that due to strong reactions to the initial operation planned to be carried out on Friday, the police limited the list of journalists to be detained. He said liberal and main stream journalists will not be targeted “for now.”

Among the journalists to be detained are Today’s Zaman Editor-in-Chief Bülent Keneş, Dumanlı, Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca, Taraf daily and Today’s Zaman columnist Emre Uslu, Taraf daily reporter Mehmet Baransu and Bugün daily columnist Nuh Gönültaş.

The claim of mass detentions of some 400 people, including 150 journalists, was first raised on Thursday afternoon by Avni, who says he is among President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's inner circle. He has revealed many government-backed police operations to the public in the past, and though late at times, all the claims have turned out to be true.

Published on Sunday's Zaman, 14 December 2014, Sunday