'Everyone is being framed', journalist deported from Turkey tells RT amid govt media takeover
"Everybody who opposes them [the government], every journalist who is against the government is being framed. I was framed as a terrorist supporter and Zaman is linked to the Gulen movement – which is a movement of a religious Turkish leader [Sunni cleric Fethullah Gulen] who is based in the US, and they say he is trying to stage a coup against the government. So now Zaman journalists and people who read Zaman are being framed as coup supporters, that's how the government is doing it," Frederike Geerdink, Dutch freelance journalist who was deported from Turkey last year, told RT.
On Friday, the Istanbul-based Turkish-language Zaman newspaper, which has been sharply critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was ordered into administration by a court decision. Following the order, which the outlet journalists proclaimed an "unlawful takeover," the paper's editor-in-chief Abdulhamit Bilici was fired by trustees, while police put barbed wire around the headquarters.
"All content management systems at Zaman" have also been blocked by the new administration, Zaman's sister publication in English, Today's Zaman, said, with its journalists covering the situation via social media and posting updates on Twitter.
"All internet connection is cut off at the seized Zaman building by police raid," they posted, adding that after the takeover of the headquarters in Istanbul, Ankara office has also "lost access to company internal servers."
Government affiliates have also taken under control and blocked access to the outlet's Cihan news agency, Today's Zaman reported, adding that it is "the only news agency that was monitoring elections besides state-run Anadolu."
"It's not a surprise at all. Several of the government newspapers have in the last couple of weeks hinted at this [takeover] already, and other media who are linked to the Gulen movement have come under the same procedure with trustees," Frederike Geerdink, who has herself been prosecuted in Turkey "for making propaganda for a terrorist organization," said.
The journalist told RT that she has been in contact with one of Zaman's employees, who told her weeks ago that they had been "having a difficult time" because of government pressure. Zaman was losing advertisers and readers, "because if you work for the state you cannot be seen with Zaman under your arm, as it can lead to losing your job," the Dutch journalist was told by her Turkish colleague.
"Zaman was being attacked for months," she said, but added that the current situation with the media in the country "is not something new."
Two years ago, one of Today's Zaman journalists, Azerbaijan national Mahir Zeynalov, was deported from Turkey after having worked at the Turkish newspaper for years. The reporter was facing prosecution related to a tweet, his employers said, adding that a complaint against Zeynalov was filed by then PM Erdogan, accusing the journalist of "defamation and inciting public to hatred."
"People now think that Erdogan invented the lack of press freedom in Turkey - which is totally not true. He takes it to extreme heights – that's definitely true, but the press has never been free in Turkey," Geerdink told RT. "For example, 20 years ago nobody could go to the southeast to report on the realities there. At the time it was the army that was censoring the press, and now Erdogan is using the same mechanisms to silence opponents," she said.
Not only government-owned media outlets are being biased in Turkey, the Dutch journalist said. Some are under indirect, economic pressure.
"Most of the big papers and big channels, also the ones we call 'mainstream' which are not necessarily total mouthpieces of the government, have economic ties to the government, because they are part of big companies, and have to report in line with general government policy. [Otherwise] these companies lose contracts in the telecom market," Geerdink said, adding that CNN Turk – which hasn't been covering the Zaman protests, is one example.
"CNN Turk cancelled two rather popular talk shows of people who are not really in line with the government - and that is another problem in Turkey," she said.