Turkish newspaper Zaman prints pro-regime articles day after being seized by Erdogan government

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s Prime Minister, described it as a 'legal, not political' decision

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The Independent Online

Turkey’s largest newspaper has published a series of pro-regime articles just a day after it was seized by government administrators.

Armed officials used rubber bullets and tear gas as they took over Zaman's offices in Istanbul.

The front page of Sunday's edition, the first following the seizure, displayed a photograph of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan alongside the headline "Historic excitement about the bridge", with no mention of the tear gas being fired outside Zaman's headquarters the day before.

Larger crowds were present on Sunday morning to peacefully protest Zaman’s takeover, with reports of a heavy police presence inside and outside of the building.

People also took to social media to voice their anger.

Abdullah Ayasun, a journalist for Zaman, told The Independent: “An army of riot police broke inside the building, forcefully threw people out, including me. The building is still full of police – anti-terror police units – and riot police in full gear wandering in the garden.

“This is like a military zone. The entire street is cordoned off, and anti-terror police with their AK-47 rifles, fingers close to triggers, provide an epic surreal picture that eloquently illustrates the nature of regime in Turkey: A police state. An authoritarian regime.

Mr Ayasun said a team of trustees arrived at the Zaman offices on Sunday, promising an “unbiased and objective, neutral newspaper”, but he said the staff were unconvinced.

He continued: “The government wants to control media to check people's access to information for its own sake. So, tomorrow we expect mass purges or mass [resignations].”

The daily newspaper, which has a circulation of around 650,000, was previously known to be a critic of President Erdoğan’s government. It is closely linked to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet movement, which Turkish authorities have labelled a "terrorist" group.

Saturday’s edition, the last before the change of power, said Turkey's press had experienced "one of the darkest days in its history".

Its editor and chief columnist were both sacked on Saturday and journalists were told there would be a “change in editorial policy”. The paper's Twitter account has been taken down, access to the website cut, and work was reportedly started on deleting the media group’s news archive.

Ahmet Davutoglu, Turkey’s Prime Minister, described it as a "legal, not political" decision.

"It is out of the question for neither me nor any of my colleagues to interfere in this process," he said in a television interview on Saturday.

Johannes Hahn, the European Enlargement Commissioner, warned that seizure of Zaman newspaper “jeopardises” Turkey’s accession to EU. Mr Hahn, who is the head of the authority vetting countries, wrote on Twitter:

“Extremely worried about latest developments on Zaman newspaper which jeopardises progress made by Turkey in other areas,” he said.

“We will continue to monitor this case closely. Turkey, as a candidate country, needs to respect freedom of the media.”

Turkey was declared eligible to join the EU in 1997 and started accession negotiations in 2005, but the ongoing dispute over Cyprus and other human rights issues have repeatedly delayed talks.