Turkish police raided media outlets and detained journalists nationwide on Sunday in operations against what President Tayyip Erdogan says is a network conspiring to topple him, reports Reuters. The detentions came days after the government-sponsored bill was signed into law that made it possible to arrest suspects based on "reasonable doubt."
On the eve of the first anniversary of graft probe targeting Erdogan's inner circle emerged a year ago, the raids on Zaman daily, Turkey's highest circulating newspaper with around 1 million copies a day, and Samanyolu television is considered as the latest step of Erdogan to silence critical media and conceal the corruption allegations.
"The free press cannot be silenced," a crowd chanted in front of Zaman headquarter in Istanbul as its editor Ekrem Dumanli was being detained. English-language Today's Zaman editor Bulent Kenes told police had shown them documentation which referred to a charge of 'forming a gang to try and seize state sovereignty'.
Media reports said arrest warrants had been issued for 32 people including two former police chiefs. Besides Samanyolu TV Chairman Hidayet Karaca, a television producer, a director and scriptwriters were held.
"COUP AGAINST DEMOCRACY"
Government ministers or MPs did not talk about the raids yet but main opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu told reporters that this is a government coup. "A coup is being carried out against democracy. The process that we are going through now would not happen in a healthy democracy" said Kilicdaroglu, speaking to reporters at the Ankara Esenboğa Airport.
Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, U.S.-based Muslim cleric, of establishing a "parallel structure" within the state through his supporters in the judiciary, police and other state institutions, as well as wielding influence through the media. Gulen denies all the accusations of seeking to overthrow Erdogan's government.
The graft probe, which became public on Dec. 17 last year, led to the resignation of four ministers and prompted Erdogan to purge thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors. Erdogan has also increased government control over the judiciary meanwhile prosecutors have dropped the corruption cases.
Sunday's police raids had been expected for a several days after @fuatavnifuat, a widely-followed Twitter account which has previously given truly advance warning of similar operations, said police were set to detain some 400 people, including around 150 journalists.