Turkey responds to CPJ letter on Zaman takeover, denying move is politically motivated

When riot police stormed the Istanbul offices of Turkey’s largest newspaper, the daily Zaman, on March 4 following a court-ordered takeover, the Committee to Protect Journalists sent a public letter to Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, expressing dismay at the government’s actions and calling on him to uphold press freedom in Turkey.

Footage of the raid showed police using tear gas and water cannon against the paper’s supporters. Since the takeover, the new trustee administration has fired editors and Zaman, once critical of authorities, has become a pro-establishment mouthpiece. The digital archives of Zaman and its sister-publication, the English-language daily Today’s Zaman, were destroyed, journalists from the outlet told CPJ.

Last week CPJ received a response to its letter, signed by the Turkish Ambassador to the United States Serdar Kılıç. The letter, which can be read here, denied any political motive behind the takeover and said it was carried out “in the context of an ongoing criminal investigation.” The letter included a document titled, “Facts About the Appointment of Trustees to the Zaman Newspaper,” which repeated the authorities’ claim that the paper had alleged links to terrorism. A copy of the document can be viewed here.

  • CPJ has been documented the ongoing crackdown on Turkey’s independent press. For updates, follow the Crackdown Chronicle.