Turkish police raid opposition TV station ahead of election (VIDEO)
Offices of Turkish opposition media group Koza Ipek are being stormed by Turkish police. Tear gas and water cannon are being used to quell the protest after an earlier assault on the building.
Media workers have told RT they are being prevented from entering or exiting the building, and broadcasting has been stopped by the police.
"They don't let me go outside my office," Emrah Ulker, a journalist from Koza Ipek's subsidiary Bugun TV told RT by phone from inside the besieged building. "They cut our broadcast, and now we have a black screen, because we are open to all different political views of Turkish society."
A Kanalturk TV presenter and producer also trapped inside the building told RT that the actions of the police were "a real shock" for the journalists.
"They used force to come inside... At first they didn't go into the control room... but then they cut out broadcast, so now we are blacked out," Aydan Onder told RT by phone. "Nobody is telling anything about what's happening... We don't know what to do tomorrow... I'm not sure if we can go inside tomorrow," she added.
The incident took place outside the offices of Kanalturk and Bugun TV in Istanbul, while footage was broadcast live on Bugun’s website.
It comes days before the country goes to the polls. The media outlet is linked to an Islamic preacher opposed to President Tayyip Recep Erdogan.
"Anyone who doesn't support the government... are branded terrorists. They [the authorities] did something very unlawful, they took over the company... This morning I came to the channel and I could hardly enter... there was tear gas and lots of violence," Pelin Batu, Bugun TV presenter trapped inside the company's headquarters told RT.
The Turkish journalist, a prominent critic of the Turkish regime, said she didn't believe there was freedom of the press in Turkey and that the state is "in the running for being one of the most fascist countries in the world."
There were large scuffles outside the offices, where there was also a heavy police presence. Police seemed to be using pepper spray against those trying to block their path through the gate and into the building.
"I am here because of the censorship of the press and because of the situation that we are in today. And I'm here in the name of democracy, because of the cruelty against the press," one of the protesters told RT.
After a struggle, dozens of police eventually made their way through the crowd and into the building. A water cannon on the street was also used to keep demonstrators away.
My colleague Kamil is being dragged away by police. pic.twitter.com/zTEoELNm8H— Mahir Zeynalov (@MahirZeynalov) October 28, 2015
The media groups are owned by Koza Ipek Holding, which has links to the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who is a political foe of the current Turkish President Erdogan. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.
Ankara's Chief Prosecutor Office said the raid was linked to suspected terrorism financing and terrorism propaganda. A prosecutor ordered that the holding be placed under the management of a trustee while investigating its ties with the Islamic cleric.
"They see it as a justified action, they see it as a conspiracy within government to almost have a coup of government, they've accused Gulen very much of being at the forefront of it, although he's obviously in exile in America. So I think that the fundamental thing here is that the polarization of Turkey is only going to continue, I don't see how Erdogan is going to have his majority," Middle East expert and political analyst Bashdar Ismaeel told RT.
Gulen was included on the list of Turkey's most wanted terrorists issued by its Interior Ministry on Wednesday, Turkish Daily Sabah reported. Promising rewards for those who supply intelligence about the figures on the list, officials categorized them using a color scheme "depending on their threat level for the country." The US based cleric is included in the most dangerous category: red.
On Tuesday, the authorities took over the management of 22 companies that were owned by Koza Ipek, Reuters reports.
"They wanted to take over or place under trustee control Turkish papers and television stations just days before the election, because they are scared of the probability of not being able to manipulate election results perhaps," coordinator for Press for Freedom project Yusuf Kanli told RT.
Gulen was once an ally of Erdogan, but the two fell out after police and prosecutors seen as sympathetic to the preacher opened a corruption investigation against the inner circle of the Turkish president, then prime minister, in 2013. This is believed to have resulted in the crackdown against Gulen.
Gulen is facing charges of running a “parallel” structure within state institutions that was looking to topple Erdogan. Prosecutors are seeking a prison sentence of up to 34 years for Gulen.