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Turkey seizes control of opposition paper Zaman

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
The logo of Turkish daily newspaper Zaman is seen on the headquarters building as people demonstrate in support of the newspaper in Istanbul on March 4, 2016. (AFP Photo)

A Turkish court has ordered a board of trustees to take charge of the mainstream opposition newspaper Zaman.

The Istanbul Sixth Criminal Court of Peace ordered the management of Zaman newspaper to be replaced by the trustees board appointed by the court.

A young participant holds a Turkish national flag and a placard reading "No way except democracy" as people demonstrate in support of Turkish daily newspaper Zaman in Istanbul on March 4, 2016. (AFP Photo)

The state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday that the court decision came at the request of the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

Meanwhile, people staged a protest gathering in front of the newspaper's office.

The protesters chanted, "Free press cannot be silenced!", and held up signs that read, "Don't touch my newspaper!"

Zaman editor-in-chief Abdülhamit Bilici said the court decision marked a "black day for democracy", as he addressed the crowd.

“Today, we are experiencing a shameful day for media freedom in Turkey. Our media institutions are being seized,” Today's Zaman editor-in-chief Sevgi Akarçeşme said.

Şahin Alpay, a veteran political expert and a columnist for both Zaman and Today's Zaman, said, “It is utterly saddening ...Turkey is turning into a third-world dictatorship.”

The takeover of Zaman comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) intensify the pressure on the Turkish media. Zaman, which is affiliated with the Gülen movement, is one of the few opposition media outlets operating in the country.

A man holds up a placard as people demonstrate in support of Turkish daily newspaper Zaman in front of the paper's office in Istanbul on March 4, 2016. (AFP Photo)

"This is not a matter of a fight between the government and the [Gülen] movement. This is a matter of existence for Turkey," said columnist Levent Gültekin.

The Gülen movement, inspired by US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is allegedly using its influence in the government to stage a coup against Erdogan's rule.

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