Hasan Cemal, one of Turkey’s most respected journalists and a vocal Erdogan critic, said the seizure of Zaman by the state was another sign of the government’s “intolerance towards other voices and voices of the opposition”.
Zaman staff members have been chronicling the takeover of their newspaper on Twitter, with one calling it “the end of democracy” in Turkey.
The court gave no reason for its decision it put Zaman under authorities.
The effective seizure of the newspaper by the state comes ahead of a critical summit on Monday between Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and European Union leaders in Brussels. “It is out of the question for either me or any of my colleagues to interfere in this process”, he said.
A man lies on the ground as others run as Turkish anti-riot police officers use tear gas to disperse supporters in front of the headquarters of the Turkish daily newspaper Zaman in Istanbul on March 5, 2016.
Following the government takeover of the paper’s offices in Istanbul on Friday night, the headquarters reopened on Saturday under heavy police guard and with the dismissal of the editor-in-chief.
The daily Cumhuriyet newspaper’s editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara bureau chief Erdem Gul were released on an order from Turkey’s top court last week after three months in jail on charges of publishing state secrets.
“The Constitution is suspended”, the newspaper, which managed to print its latest issue despite the takeover, said on its front page in large font on a black background. The article said Erdogan will lay the last part of a third bridge across the Bosphorus – a bridge for rail and motor vehicles – that is near completion.
Abdullah Bozkurt, another journalist for Zaman, said that its offices in Ankara had also lost access to internal servers and chronicled new rules enforced by “government caretakers”.
Protests against the new government ownership of a Turkish newspaper got violent Friday and Saturday. The protesters chanted Â“free press can not be silencedÂ” and Â“Zaman can not be silencedÂ” as riot police used shields and fired tear gas to push back the crowd, sending demonstrators running into side streets for protection.
Joel Simon, CPJ executive director, said: “Today’s move by the court paves the way to effectively strangle the remnants of critical journalism in Turkey“.
Zaman’s website is now inaccessible, but has a holding message promising there will soon be “unbiased coverage for our readers”.
A state-appointed trusteeship has now been ordered to take over both newspapers and the Cihan news agency – all of which have ties to a US-based cleric who the government accuses of plotting a coup.
Erdogan has repeatedly pledged to crush Gulen’s conservative religious movement, which he said has infiltrated the police, judiciary and bureaucracy since his party won power in 2002. Zaman, the newspaper seized by authorities on Friday, has been the flagship of the Hizmet movement, which had been a long-time supporter of Erdogan’s Islamic-conservative course until a bitter break-up in 2013.