Erstellt am: 7. 3. 2016 - 16:29 Uhr
The End of Zaman
FM4 Reality Check
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Turkish riot police stormed the offices of Turkey's largest newspaper on Friday, taking over the headquarters of Zaman.
Heavily armed police used pepper spray, tear gas, water cannons and physical force against protesters and staff.
Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper has now adopted a pro-government line in its first edition since a court ordered it to be seized in a controversial decision.
To find out more about the hostile takeover of Zaman (which translates as 'Time'), I SKYPED with our correspondent in Istanbul, Adnan Khan.
ADNAN KHAN: Ten days ago the constitutional court in Turkey decided to release two journalists who were arrested back in November for reporting on a sensitive story about arms being shipped from Turkey to militants in Syria. They were arrested in November…the constitutional court released them ten days ago on a decision stating their arrest violated the constitution and violated their rights as journalists.
After that decision (Turkish President) Erdogan came out with a very strange statement saying that he does not respect the decision and he doesn’t feel that he needs to follow it. In the pro-government press after that, you started to hear rumours or people outright stating (pro-government journalists) that these guys could be arrested again and one pro-government journalist actually said that the Feza Group which owns Zaman would be taken over by the government and this was days before it actually happened.
RIEM HIGAZI: Give me a little picture of what Zaman is all about…or, was…
ADNAN: In a nutshell, Zaman is owned by the Feza Group which is affiliated with the Gülen Movement which is headed by a cleric who is in exile in the US right now. Now, the Gülen Movement and the current government have been basically battling each other for the last couple of years. The government accuses the Gülen Movement of being a ‘deep state’ and trying to orchestrate a coup in Turkey. So they have been arresting Gülen Movement members for the last few years.
RIEM: I understand that Zaman content has already radically changed.
ADNAN: Yeah. It’s interesting. The newspaper content, so the printed Turkish version, the first edition that came out on Sunday was about one-third the normal length and it ran very glowing stories about Erdogan on the front cover. One story about him celebrating International Women’s Day with a picture of him holding hands with some old village woman and smiling and then another story about a new bridge that’s being built in Istanbul - the third Bosphorus bridge which is very controversial. The story basically took the position that it’s a wonderful new development in turkey and people are looking forward to it. This is basically stuff that Zaman would never print, right? I mean Zaman has always been very critical of the AKP’s development projects, particularly this bridge.
RIEM: The actual Zaman website is offline and I understand the message reads, "We will provide you, our readers, with a better quality and more objective service as soon as possible."
ADNAN: Exactly. Now what's interesting though is that the English version of Zaman is still online and it’s still running critical pieces. I’m not exactly clear on how that English site is run and if it’s run out of Turkey or if it’s run out of the US and perhaps they’re able to keep it online - the government hasn’t blocked it. That’s telling in itself. The government really doesn’t care what the world thinks about this because their core constituency doesn’t actually read the English versions.
RIEM: France has said, the foreign minister in France has said that the decision by Turkish authorities to seize control of Zaman was 'unacceptable'. What do Turks say?
ADNAN: Well, you have a lot of divisions in Turkey. Of course, amongst the journalist community, there’s been a sense of fear and foreboding for years now…a lot of concern, a lot of journalists are losing their jobs or quitting the industry. In general terms, the hardcore Erdogan supporters are of course entirely behind this. They subscribe to the conspiracy theory of the Gülen Movement attempting to destabilise and topple the government and so all of this is playing right into their narratives, right? But you do have a broader audience here that’s really concerned. I mean I think a telling example is, a year ago, a similar thing happened. There was another group, The Ipek (Koza Ipek Holding) Group which was also similarly taken over by the government and their newspapers were switched over to basically pro-government tools essentially. So, you noticed that very quickly, within just a few weeks, the subscriptions, the sales of the newspapers dropped dramatically: It went for one newspaper from about 106 000 sales a day down to somewhere around 5000. There was a big backlash in terms of the people that actually support these groups, support these newspapers, and their reaction was obviously just to reject this. Then of course, these newspapers just folded. Eventually they just closed them down. We might see something similar here with Zaman where it was the best-selling newspaper in turkey and I doubt that its readership is going to continue to buy the newspapers. You’re likely going to see in the next few
months that this paper will fold as well.
RIEM: How do you feel Adi (short for Adnan) about being a freelance journalist in Turkey right now?
ADNAN: I have to admit it’s the most tense time I’ve had and I’ve been covering Turkey for fifteen years. Foreign journalists are also being detained and being kicked out of the country. There was a Dutch journalist recently who was basically not allowed to enter Turkey because he was considered a threat to Turkish security. Writing anything critical about Turkey as a foreign journalist now risks being deported. Even down to the administrative side… I mean to get a press pass now, to get accreditation is next to impossible. There are so many journalists right now who are scrambling to say, okay I need a press pass, what do I need to do? They’re making it extremely difficult to work and of course there’s a butterfly effect from all of this, right? There’s a war playing out in the south-east of the country which we hear nothing about.
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