Brussels , 07 March 2016
The Turkish government’s seizure of Zaman, the most circulating newspaper in Turkey, is an attack on the country’s human rights, freedom of expression and the media. Alongside with Zaman daily, Today’s Zaman (the English language daily of the group), Cihan News Agency and Aksiyon weekly have also been confiscated. This is another evidence that president Erdoğan seeks to consolidate his power and silence the opposition which serves to his growing authoritarian tendencies.
“As expected, the biggest Turkish daily which has been critical of Erdogan and the government has now been turned into a government mouthpiece overnight. The seizure comes just before the Turkey-EU summit as if mocking the European values. This will surely be a test for defenders of these values.” said Ramazan Guveli, Executive Director of Dialogue Platform, a Brussels-based NGO dedicated to promoting intercultural dialogue, respect and mutual understanding. “We urge the proponents of freedom of expression and the friends of Turkey, and the EU leaders who believe in press freedom asa fundamental right to condemn Erdoğan’s actions and pressure him using all available means to return Zaman to its rightful owners”
This is not the first time that the dissent voices have been crushed. Last October, the government seized critical media outlets Bugun and Kanaltürk, with the purpose of turning them into sources of pro-government propaganda machines. Numerous journalists have been fired, prosecuted or jailed simply for criticizing the government and “insulting the president” or reporting the allegations of corruption. Similarly, Cumhuriyet newspaper’s Editor-in-Chief, Can Dündar, and Ankara Bureau Chief, Erdem Gül, were jailed for three months and released only after an appeal to the Constitutional Court – whose ruling Erdoğan refused to acknowledge or respect. In addition, two judges who ordered the release of Hidayet Karaca, Director of Samanyolu Media Groups, were dismissed from their duties, arrested in April 2015 and remain in prison today.
Furthermore, the seizure of Zaman explicitly violates the Turkish constitution. Article 30 states that, “A printing house and its annexes…shall not be seized, confiscated or barred from operation on the grounds of having been used in a crime.” Sadly, the space for democracy and press freedom is unprecedentedly shrinking in Turkey.
About Dialogue Platform
Dialogue Platform is a non-profit organisation in Brussels which serves as a voice for dialogue organizations affiliated with Hizmet in Europe. (also known as Gulen movement). The Platform also serves as a central source of information on Hizmet and Fethullah Gulen who holds the honarary presidency of the platform. For more information, please visit www.dialogueplatform.eu