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The government-orchestrated crackdown on independent critical media outlets in Turkey took a turn for the worse yesterday (14 December 2014) with dawn raids on Turkey’s largest newspaper Zaman and popular national TV network Samanyolu TV that led to the detention of top managers at the media outlets. A total of 31 people—mostly high ranked media personnel, directors and producers of popular television serials and police officers—were taken into custody by the police.Hadi Salihoğlu, the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, said in a statement that the suspects were detained on charges of establishing, heading or being a member of a terrorist organization. Fraud and slander are also what some of the suspects are accused of, the prosecutor said.

Ekrem Dumanlı, editor-in-chief of Turkey’s best-selling daily Zaman, and Samanyolu Broadcasting Group General Manager Hidayet Karaca are among those detained.
The Zaman daily and the Samanyolu television station are among the media outlets which have been critical of the government for alleged corruption since two major graft probes went public in December of last year. The police operation came just ahead of the first anniversary of graft probes on Dec. 17 and 25 of last year.

Among the several police officers who were detained are Tufan Ergüder and Mutlu Ekizoğlu, former heads respectively of the Anti-terrorism Unit in the Istanbul Police Department and of the Department of Organized Crime. (Source: Sunday Zaman)

The shock raid and arrests were condemned by the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists,

“We are appalled by this brazen assault on press freedom and Turkish democracy” said Jim Boumelha, IFJ President. “One year after the exposure of corruption at the heart of government, the authorities appear to be exacting their revenge by targeting those who express opposing views.”

He was supported by Mogens Blicher Bjerregård,  EFJ president, who said: “The Council of Europe and other intergovernmental institutions should take action in relation to Turkey. Only 10 days ago we together with the Council of Europe signed a memorandum of understanding to build a new platform about early warnings on attacks on journalist, journalism and media. This is such an example, and we need the international community to send a very clear and firm message to the authorities in Turkey.”

And Barry White, NUJ representative of the European Federation of Journalists, commented: “The NUJ deplores this attack on journalists and journalism. Journalists must have the freedom to write and report without the fear of arrest and detention. The international community must send a strong and clear message to the authorities in Turkey that attacking journalists in this way is an attack on democracy.”

The following statement was issued by the Zaman Editorial Board

‘Today (14 December) is an extremely sad day for Turkish democracy and freedom of the press. Colleagues including our Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli have been detained on unfounded allegations.

Turkey’s record on press freedoms has recently been on a steep decline. Freedom House has downgraded Turkey’s ranking to ‘not free’ earlier this year. Today’s mass detentions mark another major step back.

Since 1980’s our media group has been a strong voice for freedom, Turkey’s integration with advanced democracies, and domestic and international peace. Despite government orchestrated intimidation and legal harassment to journalists and news organizations in especially last few years, we continued doing our job consistently at all costs. Our only crime is going after major corruption incidents and authoritarian tendencies. The pressure on Zaman and other members of the free media has been consistently on the rise from media bans to intimidating, even deporting reporters and pressuring companies not to advertise with them. Today’s vicious attack on us and other colleagues reaffirms the accuracy of our reporting.

Our readers, Turkish nation and the world must rest assured; we will not give in to fear and bullying. We are confident Turkey will one day leave this dark chapter behind and ultimately become a better democracy where press is totally free from suppression.’
Zaman Editorial Board