March 4, 2016

Turkish police raid Zaman HQs, fire tear gas on readers after gov’t takeover

Turkish police fired tear gas and used water cannon on a crowd to forcibly enter the country's top-selling newspaper on Friday after a court ordered its confiscation.

An İstanbul court appointed trustees to take over the management of the Feza Media Group, which includes Turkey’s biggest-selling newspaper, the Zaman daily, as well as the Today’s Zaman daily and the Cihan news agency, dealing a fresh blow to the already battered media freedom in Turkey.

Police in riot gear pushed back Zaman supporters who stood in the rain outside its İstanbul office where they waved Turkish flags and carried placards reading "Hands off my newspaper" before they were overcome by clouds of tear gas.

Officers then forcibly broke down a gate and rushed into the building. The footage showed them scuffling with Zaman staff inside the offices.

Zaman employees waiting near the entrance said police immediately tear-gassed hundreds of readers who had gathered outside Zaman newspaper to protest the ruling without even delivering the court decision.

Employees shouted 'free press cannot be silenced," as hundreds of police officers entered the building. Zaman daily Editor-in-Chief Abdülhamit Bilici, who had hard time in speaking due to tear gas that covered inside the building, said the scene will be noted in the Turkish history as a black stain.

Police then went to the management floor in the building. Police initially prevented Bilici from entering his office but they later let him in. Bilici was heard saying he does not recognize the court decision.

Live footage also showed Today's Zaman Editor-in-Chief Sevgi Akarçeşme being pushed by police. She said a police officer held her arm and tried to take her out of the building. "Police did not let us inside our offices in our own newspaper building! This is pure despotism! They physically blocked me, both men&women," she tweeted.

A group of opposition deputies who were also present at the building to show support for the daily were also affected by pepper gas.

Police then broke cameras in the building to cut live footage from the building, an employee said. "Throw him off the staircase", one police shouted at 2nd floor as one editor was pushed down from the stairs, another Zaman employee tweeted.

Published on Today's Zaman, 4 March 2016, Friday