Fears that the Turkish Government is destroying critical media

The Turkish authorities have taken over the countries Cihan news agency, a move that comes just days after the seizing of one of the last remaining voices of dissent in Turkey, the newspaper Zaman, in a dramatic raid on their offices on Friday.

It sounds like something out of a film.

Unfortunately, this situation has become reality as the authoritarian regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has escalated their war on any outlet supposed of holding sympathies for the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, opponent of the authoritarian president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Both Zaman and Cihan are part of media conglomerate Feza Publications, sympathetic to Gulen.

Tensions have been growing since 2014, when Zaman’s offices were first raided under suspicion of alleged “terrorist sympathies”, despite the courts quickly ordering all those arrested to be released due to lack of evidence.

President Erdogan has shown a constant disregard for the law of the land, spending hundreds of millions of dollars on an opulent Presidential Palace, despite the Turkish Council of State ordering its suspension.

Previously an avowed Islamist, he served four months in prison for “religious intolerance” in 1998, founding a more moderate party in the AKP in 2001 and leading them to three general election victories in 2001, 2007 and 2014, before being elected President in 2014.

He has since tightened his stranglehold on power, systematically eroding democracy and crushing dissent in the once relatively-tolerant country, whilst corruption scandals, economic mismanagement and protests are commonplace.

These recent actions are the the regimes most flagrant yet however.

The last front page of Zaman on 5th March 2016 quotes Article 30 of the Constitution of Turkey, stating ‘A printing house, its annexes and press equipment duly established as a press enterprise under law shall not be seized, confiscated, or barred from operation on the grounds of being an instrument of crime’.

The last front page of Zaman on 5th March 2016 quotes Article 30 of the Constitution of Turkey, stating ‘A printing house, its annexes and press equipment duly established as a press enterprise under law shall not be seized, confiscated, or barred from operation on the grounds of being an instrument of crime’.

In scenes chillingly reminiscent of the darkest types of dystopian fiction, Zaman’s website went offline with the message “We will provide you, our readers, with a better quality and more objective service as soon as possible”, before beginning to run unashamedly pro-government stories.

Thankfully the name lives on in their overseas operations. However, if Erdogan is able to get away with dictatorial behaviour like this, it sets a chilling precedent for the future of independent journalism in the country.

The response from Europe has been lukewarm, as they desperately seek co-operation with Turkey on recent talks over stemming the flow of migrants from Greece.

Whilst Turkey systematically crushes dissent in one hand, jailing critical politicians and journalists as well as leaving the future of fair elections in doubt, it seeks visa liberalisation and advancement on talks for EU membership in the other.

With our own referendum around the corner, the world waits with baited breath to see the price the EU puts on the freedom of the press, democracy and human rights.

 

 


 

Featured image by Sam Skinner