ARTICLE 19 expresses the gravest of concern at the recent judgement that Zaman, Turkey’s most widely circulated opposition newspaper and one of few remaining critical media outlets, is to be taken over by State appointed trustees. Turkey must immediately reverse the recent decision and restore Zaman’s independence.
Following a judgement by an Istanbul court on Friday, hundreds gathered outside the offices of Zaman to protest the appointment of the board of trustees and stand up for freedom of expression in the face of an increasingly closed and hostile environment for independent media. Police later dispersed the protestors through the use of disproportionate and aggressive tactics, such as water cannons and tear gas. State appointed trustees have since taken control of the newspaper and printed a pro-government edition on Sunday.
“This flagrant disrespect for the Turkish constitution and international standards of media freedom is unfortunately not a surprise. Across Turkey we are seeing independent voices silenced through politically motivated prosecution, excessive filtering and blocking of content, and a culture of fear that seeks to suppress independent expression, political diversity and dissent at its root”, stated Katie Morris, Head of Europe and Central Asia at ARTICLE 19.
“While the news that the President of the European Parliament intends to raise the seizure of Zaman at the Turkey-EU summit today is welcome, European leaders must push for concrete measures to ensure freedom of expression in Turkey. Long-term stability in Turkey depends on the protection of basic freedoms. The world cannot continue to turn a blind eye to recent events in Turkey. Where a few years ago, we were praising Turkey’s steps towards fostering greater accountability and plurality of the media, today we are seeing any good work dramatically undone,” concluded Morris.
On Sunday, Zaman‘s Twitter feed redirected followers a newly established newspaper, Yarina Bakis, where staff have committed to continue to publish stories in the public interest.
ARTICLE 19 calls on Turkey to take immediate steps to restore Zaman‘s independence and allow its staff to return to work without harassment or undue interference from the State, in line with Turkey’s constitution, and international standards of media freedom.