Turkey’s newspapers are taken by the state

06 March 2016 8:57 am

Turkey’s most widely-read newspaper, Zaman, printed one final Saturday edition before its office was raided by state police.
According to the BBC, a Turkish court put Zaman newspaper - a vocal critic of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan - under state control.

The newspaper’s editor and chief columnist were sacked on Saturday and journalists were told to expect a “change in editorial policy” as access to the website was cut and administrators reportedly started attempts to delete the media group’s news archive.

Turkish police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at thousands of protesters demonstrating against the government’s takeover of the country’s largest newspaper.

Johannes Hahn, the European Enlargement Commissioner warned that Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU had been jeopardised by the press crackdown.

“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.

The problem for the EU is that the refugee crisis and the rise of Islamic State has turned Turkey into a crucial partner.

As Zvi Bar’el writes in Ha’aretz, with the European Union and Turkey now partners to an agreement to stop the wave of immigrants to the Europe in exchange for 2.3 billion euros and with the United States using the services of Turkey's Incirlik airbase to attack ISIS, Islamic State, bases, and with Turkey also an ally of Saudi Arabia in the coalition in the war against terrorism, there is no influential global player that would wish to take the Turkish administration to task or to rile it over the closure or nationalization of newspapers.

Which is exactly why the Erodgan government has decided now is the time to get rid of political rivals and finish the job when it comes to "hostile" media outlets.

That makes the civil war in Syria a marginal event and the deep crisis in relations between Russia and Turkey an unimportant sideshow to the real war going on inside Turkey cracking down on internal dissent.