A court order to appoint trustees to oversee the Turkish newspapers Zaman and Today’s Zaman is an astonishingly blatant attempt to wipe out Turkey’s free press, PEN America said today.

Zaman, Turkey’s largest-circulation paper, and Today’s Zaman, its English-language counterpart, were accused by a public prosecutor of publishing terrorist propaganda. Both papers are connected to Fethullah Gülen, a US-based Islamic cleric and outspoken opponent of President Erdogan. The court order prompted an immediate outcry within Turkey and internationally. Police stormed the Zaman offices after the court decision and dispersed employees and supporters with force, using tear gas and water cannons. Employees chanted “free press cannot be silenced” as police officers entered the building.  

The government has been engaged in an ongoing crackdown on journalists for many months, including the November 2015 arrests of two Cumhuriyet journalists who were charged with espionage. The journalists, Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, fought the case all the way to Turkey’s Constitutional Court, which ruled last week that their arrests had violated their constitutional rights.

“The government’s decision to commandeer Zaman and Today’s Zaman is President Erdogan’s clearest message yet that his government has zero tolerance for opposing views and zero respect for free expression,” PEN’s Executive Director Suzanne Nossel said today. “Turkey’s democracy is dangerously eroded by these shameful efforts to dismantle Turkey’s free press.”‎

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Founded in 1922, PEN America is an association of 4,400 U.S. writers working to break down barriers to free expression worldwide. www.PEN.org

CONTACT
Sarah Edkins, Deputy Director for Communications: sedkins@pen.org, +1.646.779.4830