Seized Turkey paper laments ‘dark days’

Protesters fleeing from tear gas - 5 MarchImage copyright

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Police are using tear gas against protesters outside the newspaper offices

Turkey’s biggest newspaper, Zaman, has condemned its takeover by the authorities in a defiant last edition published just before police raided it.

Saturday’s edition said Turkey’s press had experienced “one of the darkest days in its history”.

Turkish police raided Zaman’s offices hours after a court ruling placed it under state control, but managers were still able to get the edition to print.

Zaman readers are protesting against the takeover outside the offices.

Unconfirmed reports say police have now dispersed the protest, numbering about 500 people, with tear gas and water cannon.

The paper is closely linked to the Hizmet movement of influential US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, which Turkey says is a “terrorist” group aiming to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Mr Gulen was once an ally of Mr Erdogan but the two fell out.

Many Hizmet supporters have been arrested.

The government in Ankara has come under increasing international criticism over its treatment of journalists.

‘Constitution suspended’

The Saturday edition of the newspaper was printed before the government-backed administrators had taken control.

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Today’s Zaman newspaper

“The Constitution is suspended,” a headline in large font on a black background reads on the front page.

“The Turkish press has experienced one of the darkest days in its history,” the paper adds.

“Turkey’s mass circulation newspaper was seized despite Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu’s assurance that ‘free press is our redline.'”

The English-language echoed its sister paper with the headline: “Shameful day for free press in Turkey.”

The court ruled on Friday that Zaman, which has a circulation of some 650,000, should now be run by administrators. No explanation was given.

Media captionTurkish police fired tear gas to force their way past protesters

Police entered the building in Istanbul late on Friday, firing tear gas at protesters who had gathered outside.

Hundreds of Zaman supporters defied the police. One held a placard saying, “We will fight for a free press.”

“I believe that free media will continue even if we have to write on the walls,” Zaman’s editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici said shortly before the raid. “I don’t think it is possible to silence media in the digital age.”

He was speaking to the Cihan news agency, which was also affected by the court order.

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Dozens of police officers were later seen inside Zaman’s main office in Istanbul

Freedom of the press in Turkey

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  • Turkey ranks 149th among the 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index 2015
  • Media organisations in Turkey say that more than 30 journalists are currently behind bars; most are of Kurdish origin
  • The government argues journalism in Turkey is among the most free in the world

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