Turkey’s political map at a glance as country heads to polls for second time in five months.
Turkish police have stormed the offices of an opposition media firm, days ahead of the country’s parliamentary elections, in a crackdown on media linked to a US-based cleric.
Brawls broke out and police used water cannon to disperse dozens of people in front of the offices of Kanalturk and Bugun TV in Istanbul, a live broadcast on Bugun’s website showed on Wednesday.
The media groups are owned by Koza Ipek Holding, which has links to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, a foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Last month, prosecutors began looking into whether Koza Ipek and its units had committed any financial irregularities by making payments to Gulen.
On Tuesday, authorities also took over management of 22 companies owned by Koza Ipek.
The companies taken into state receivership include two newspapers and two television stations that have been critical of Erdogan’s rule, accusing him of growing authoritarianism ahead of the parliamentary election on November 1.
“This is an operation to silence all the dissident voices that the ruling party does not like, including media outlets, NGOs and syndicates. This holds true for opposition parties and businessmen as well. This holds true for anyone who does not obey,” editor in chief of Bugun TV, Tarik Toros, said.
The state-run Anadolu news agency said police had detained 19 people in connection with the investigation, though this could not immediately be confirmed.
Bilal Calisir, a lawyer for the company, also condemned the raid as part of a “dictatorial ruling” for the past two years.
“This is how Turkey is ruled and you cannot talk about justice where you have arbitrary decisions of those who are ruling the country. Today we are seeing these arbitrary decisions,” Calisir said.
A member of parliament from main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Baris Yakisir slammed Erdogan over the move.
“Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK party has adopted an arbitrary style to rule this country. Justice, laws, the constitution and democratic values mean nothing to them. For him, all these values are bad memories from the past.”
On Tuesday, the Koza Ipek-owned dailies Bugun and Millet published front pages entirely in black with banner headlines that read: “A dark day for our democracy, for our freedom and for Turkey.”