Saturday, October 31, 2015

Seized Turkish media outlets turn pro-government overnight

By Ayla Jean Yackley and Hamdi Istanbullu, Reuters

ISTANBUL Oct 30 — Two Turkish opposition newspapers seized in a crackdown on an arch-enemy of President Tayyip Erdogan suddenly turned staunchly pro-government on Friday, publishing fawning front pages after new state-appointed management sacked most of their staff. Police fired pepper spray and water cannon as they forced their way into the offices of a media company housing the Bugun and Millet newspapers and two TV channels on Wednesday, taking the building over as part of an investigation into the network of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The move, ahead of a general election on Sunday, drew criticism from rights groups in Turkey and abroad.

The newspapers' front pages, long fiercely critical of Erdogan and his administration, carried photographs on Friday of the president flanked by his wife and military officers during national day celebrations the previous day.

"Turkey as One Heart", read Millet's headline. "The Square of the People", said Bugun, playing to Erodgan's self-image as "the people's president" despite opposition criticism of his vast new-1,000 room palace and authoritarian instincts.

"Overnight the newspaper changed character. It looks like Pravda today. You see Erdogan, our president, saluting the people," said Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a Bugun columnist whose final article was not published and who was uncertain whether he even has a job at the paper. "I suppose it will depend on the election result."

Before the takeover, the newspapers' front pages had protested the seizure, including headlines "Theft by Trustee" in Bugun and "Bloody Putsch" in Millet, set against a black page.

But a newly-appointed editor ordered police to remove from the building anyone who tried to defend those front pages, according to journalists who were in the newsroom.

(More here.)

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