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Seized anti-Erdogan paper toes government line in new edition

Tayyip-ErdoganA leading Turkish newspaper which had staunchly opposed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan printed on Sunday its first new edition since its seizure by authorities, strongly supporting the government line.

Turkish police on Friday raided the Istanbul premises of the Zaman newspaper using tear gas and water cannon to enter the building in order to impose a court order placing the media business under administration.

The front page of the paper, normally strongly critical of the president, on Sunday was full of articles supporting the government.

Zaman headlined an ambitious three billion dollar government project to connect Asian and European sides of Turkey’s mega city Istanbul by a third bridge.

In common with traditionally pro-government newspapers the front page also contained images of the funerals of “martyrs” killed in the military clashes with Kurdish rebels in the southeast.

In one corner of the new edition Erdogan is seen holding the hand of an elderly woman and the newspaper announces the president is due to host a reception for women on women’s day.

With an estimated circulation of 650,000, the newspaper has been closely affiliated with Erdogan’s enemy, exiled Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused of seeking to overthrow the government by using his influence in the police and judiciary, as well as media and financial interests.

Ankara accuses Gulen of running what it calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation/Parallel State Structure (FeTO/PDY) and seeking to overthrow the legitimate Turkish authorities.

In its last edition that went to print before confiscation, the newspaper warned of the “darkest days” in the history of the Turkish press, and on Saturday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse a group of the paper’s supporters who were clapping in protest.

The new administration, appointed by the court order, on Saturday abolished the contract of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici while newspaper employees entered the building under tight police scrutiny.

Sunday’s edition was the first issue after the takeover, which critics said was aimed at eradicating opposition media in the country, which hopes to join the EU.

Internet has been cut off, we are unable to use our system,” one of the newspaper’s journalists told AFP.

The Sunday edition was not produced by Zaman’s staff,” the journalist said.

The effective seizure of the newspaper by the state comes ahead of a critical summit on Monday between Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and EU leaders in Brussels.

The EU has urged Turkey to uphold press freedom.

The government has denied any interference in the paper’s confiscation with Davutoglu calling it a “legal process.”



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