Turkey Seizes Country’s Largest Newspaper, Detains Heads of Major Conglomerate

The opposition newspaper Zaman, the largest Turkish daily in circulation, reported Friday that it had been taken over by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of which it is highly critical.

An İstanbul court has appointed trustees to take over the management of Zaman newspaper, one of the few critical media voices left in Turkey, dealing a fresh blow to the already battered media freedom in Turkey.

The decision was issued by the İstanbul Sixth Criminal Court of Peace at the request of the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, the state news agency Anadolu reported.

The court decision means that the editorial board and the management of Zaman will be replaced by a board named by the court.

As the newspaper’s management and staff gathered outside its headquarters, Zaman Editor-in-Chief Abdülhamit Bilici called the paper’s seizure “a black day for democracy.”

Sevgi Akarçeşme, the editor-in-chief of the paper’s English-language counterpart Today’s Zaman, also addressed the crowd, saying, “Today, we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized.”

“As of today, the Constitution has been suspended,” she added, referring to the Turkish constitution’s prohibition on confiscating printing houses and publishing equipment.

In addition to taking over Zaman, the Turkish government also detained the executives of one of the country’s largest conglomerates, The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) on Friday.

Boydak Holding Chairman Haci Boydak, Chief Executive Memduh Boydak, and two senior managers were detained during raids on their homes in Kayseri, state-run Anadolu news agency reported Friday morning. Police are investigating the houses and the company’s headquarters in the central Anatolian city in connection with an alleged coup attempt against Mr. Erdogan.

Boydak is known as one of the Anatolian Tigers, a group of large corporations that has prospered since Erdogan’s Justice and  Development party (AKP) came to power in 2002.

Over the last decade, Boydak has steadily expanded into a holding company with 41 firms operating sector-leading brands across eight industries, ranging from furniture to textiles, logistics, chemicals, marketing, steel and energy. The group’s earnings topped $2.25 billion in 2015, and Turkey’s seventh biggest conglomerate said its revenue is forecast to jump more than 10% this year.

Zaman‘s seizure and the arrests of Boydak’s executives comes amid a growing crackdown on those who the Turkish government claims are supporters of U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. Ankara has accused Gülen of seeking to overthrow the Turkish government.

[Photo: wochit News / YouTube ]