The Zaman newspaper in Turkey has resumed publication after being taken over by the Turkish government. The newspaper now serves as a mouthpiece for the Turkish government and the first edition featured a smiling President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and says that the building of a new bridge is spurring “historic excitement.” The first edition came two days after the newspaper received new ownership.
A Turkish court rules on Friday that the newspaper should be run by the Turkish government. The newspaper, one of the largest in Turkey, was previously owned by an opponent of the government, particularly Erdogan. The court did not provide reasoning for the decision and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that the decision was “legal, not political.”
Police in Istanbul raided the newspaper’s offices, but employees were able to get Saturday’s edition to print. Employees arriving on Saturday found themselves locked out of internal systems and the editor-in-chief was fired.
The editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, an English language sister newspaper, told the crowd of gathered protesters that “Today, we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized.” She then continued, “As of today, the Constitution has been suspended.” Turkey’s constitution forbids the government from seizing press equipment.
Some former employees of Zaman have launched a new newspaper, Yarina Bakis. The name means Look to Tomorrow. The inaugural edition’s headline blared, “Throw Him Out!” The headline referred to an officer ordering a journalist at the pro-Zaman protest to be removed.
Roughly 500 pro-Zaman protesters gathered in front of Zaman’s headquarters on Saturday to protest the change in ownership. Water cannons and tear gas were used against the protesters.
Erdogan’s administration has been active in attempting to silence the opposition in the media. The administration has conducted mass arrests of members of the media. Erdogan has explained these actions by claiming that members of the media are part of a shadow Islamic government attempted to take control. Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index ranked Turkey 149th out of 180 countries in 2015.