Turkish media slam government crackdown on press

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Turkish media have denounced the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for its crackdown on press ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections.

“It’s the biggest crackdown on press in Turkish history,” said Tarık Toros, the editor-in-chief of the television station, Bugün, which on Wednesday was taken off the air by Turkish security forces.

Turkish journalists say the government is trying to silence critical voices ahead of the November 1 vote that may force Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party to rule in tandem with the opposition.

“One-party rule would be a disaster,” said Toros, adding, “The atrocities against those who do not think like [Erdogan] would go on and Turkey would enter a darker period.”

Turkish police forces launched raids on the offices of the Bugun and Kanalturk television stations linked to US-based cleric and Erdogan’s arch-foe, Fethullah Gulen, on Wednesday.

Police raided the offices of the stations in the city of Istanbul, using chainsaws to smash their entrances. The television stations belong to the Koza-Ipek Holding, a conglomerate linked to Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of plotting to overthrow the ruling party. The influential cleric denies the accusation.

Can Dündar, the editor-in-chief of the dissident Cumhuriyet newspaper, said Erdogan “hates criticism,” while Ahmet Hakan, a prominent columnist with the mainstream daily Hurriyet, said the crackdown on the media “is really unprecedented in Turkish history,” and that “journalists who define themselves as oppositional to the government would feel anxious” because they are “subject to physical assault” at this “most dire time for journalists.”

The office of Ankara’s chief prosecutor has alleged in a statement that the seizure was linked to an ongoing probe into the conglomerate on suspicion of “terror financing” and “terror propaganda.” It also accused the group of supporting Gulen’s Hizmet (Service) movement.

Reacting to the statement, Koza-Ipek CEO Akin Ipek denounced the move as “politically motivated,” saying the government took action after failing to find anything illegal during inspections.

Turkey’s crackdown against opposition media critical of Erdogan or government policies comes ahead of the country’s most crucial elections in years.

Hundreds of people, believed to be sympathizers of Gulen, many of them members of the police and the judiciary, have been arrested ahead of the snap elections, where the ruling party seeks to restore its majority in the parliament.

The ruling party won three general elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011. However, it was stripped of its overall majority in the June 7 elections and failed in its coalition talks with the main opposition parties.

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