RSF: Zaman takeover shows Erdoğan moving from authoritarianism to all-out despotism

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Riot police enter the headquarters of Turkey's largest-circulation newspaper Zaman in Istanbul, Friday, March 4, 2016. The police raid came hours after a court placed it under the management of trustees on Friday. The move against the paper, which is linked to an opposition cleric, heightened concerns over deteriorating press freedoms in the country. (AP Photo)

Leading press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has said the recent confiscation the Zaman Media Group has shown that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is moving from authoritarianism to all-out despotism.

“The Turkish presidential office’s interference in the media has reached a new level,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “It is absolutely illegitimate and intolerable that Erdoğan has used the judicial system to take control of a great newspaper in order to eliminate the Gülen community’s political base. “This ideological and unlawful operation shows how Erdoğan is now moving from authoritarianism to all-out despotism. Not content with throwing journalists in prison for ‘supporting terrorism’ or having them sentenced to pay heavy fines for ‘insulting the ‘head of state,’ he is now going further by taking control of Turkey’s biggest opposition newspaper,” he added.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said in a statement on Friday that it is alarmed by the court ruling.

“Today’s move by the court paves the way to effectively strangle the remnants of critical journalism in Turkey,” said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon. “Zaman and Today’s Zaman play an essential and critical role in informing Turkish society and the world. Rather than taking aggressive action to undermine the newspapers, Turkish authorities should be fulfilling their constitutional obligation to defend press freedom and rights of the journalists.”

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