New York, March 4, 2016–The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by a ruling in Turkey today under which an Istanbul court will appoint trustees for the Turkish language Zaman and its English-language sister publication, Today’s Zaman. The ruling, brought by an Istanbul public prosecutor who accuses the papers of terrorist propaganda, means court-appointed staff could replace the papers’ editorial board and management, according to The Associated Press and a copy of the ruling seen by CPJ.
“Today’s move by the court paves the way to effectively strangle the remnants of critical journalism in Turkey,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Zaman and Today’s Zaman play an essential and critical role in informing Turkish society and the world. Rather than taking aggressive action to undermine the newspapers, Turkish authorities should be fulfilling their constitutional obligation to defend press freedom and rights of the journalists.”
It is not clear how the ruling will affect the papers, which are linked to Fethullah Gülen, an Islamic cleric and critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan living in self-imposed exile in the U.S., according to Reuters. Staff at the papers are waiting for the new trustees to arrive with the court order to see if they can appeal, Sevgi Akarçeşme, chief editor of Today’s Zaman, told CPJ. Akarçeşme said staff learned of the ruling from the newswires and said that because of crackdowns on other outlets she was concerned that today’s editions may be the last ones.