Riot police broke down the doors of a media headquarters in Turkey on Wednesday, arresting several journalists.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Today’s Zaman’s Deniz Ergürel told Poynter in an email about the government seizure of Koza-Ipek Holding. “Riot police stormed the headquarters of a TV station on air very early in the morning. The TV station is known to be a critical media outlet. This is a clear attack on press freedom and free entrepreneurship. This is a quite worrisome situation against individual freedoms and the people’s right to know right ahead of the national elections on November 1st.”
Koza-Ipek Holding owns TV stations Kanalturk, Mashable’s Megan Specia reports. Today’s Zaman notes that the company also owns the dailies Bugün and Millet.
Koza-Ipek Holding, which owns the media outlets, has ties to a movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Islamic cleric based in the U.S. The government accuses the movement of trying to destabilize the state, and prosecutors have labeled it a terrorist organization. Wednesday’s seizure is part of a wider crackdown on opposition media, which international watchdogs have called a crisis for the free press.
Gianluca Mezzofiore reports for the International Business Times on the coming election and what was happening Wednesday morning as police raided the company’s headquarters.
Tarik Toros, editor at Koza Ipek, was still broadcasting from the control room with live interviews over a smartphone as police stormed the group’s headquarters. “Dear viewers, do not be surprised if you see police in our studio in upcoming minutes,” a Bugun TV anchor said live. Hundreds of people, mostly journalists affiliated with the media company, had gathered outside the headquarters to protest against the raid.
The hashtag #FreeMediaCannotBeSilenced has images of the arrests and the aftermath.
— Today's Zaman (@todayszamancom) October 28, 2015
On Tuesday, Bugün and Millet ran black front pages in protest.
— BUGÜN Gazetesi (@bugun) October 27, 2015
On Wednesday, Today’s Zaman led with a front page showing solidarity with other journalists in the country. Via Newseum:
Last month, Poynter’s Ben Mullin reported on the arrest and release of two VICE journalists working in Turkey. Last week, Mullin wrote about VICE Media going dark in protest of a third journalist who has yet to be released. Last year, Poynter’s News University trained a group of journalists from Turkey. After their visit to Poynter, Ergürel wrote about what it was like to see his editor arrested.
As Today’s Zaman reports, the case was built on charges of defaming an al-Qaeda-affiliated group known as Tahşiyeciler (Annotators). The prosecutor in charge of the operation claimed that the detained journalists defamed the group through print coverage and a soap opera that prompted police raids. It’s been reported that the journalists have been interrogated on charges of plotting a coup and belonging to a terrorist organization.
Plotting a coup with a soap opera and a few news articles may sound strange. But in a country where some soccer fans face allegations of plotting against the government, one begins to lose the sense of being surprised. After awhile it starts to feel like a Kafka novel.