Turkey’s top-selling newspaper Zaman began running flattering stories on President Tayyip Erdogan a day after it was taken ove the government.
It’s the latest twist in a long-running conflict between Erdogan and US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, Reuters reports.
Police raided the offices of Zaman, which is affiliated with Gulen, on Friday after a court approved a request by a prosecutor to appoint a state administrator to the daily.
The prosecutor is investigating whether funds have been diverted to Gulen.
Sunday’s front page included a story about Erdogan’s planned reception to mark International Women’s Day and his visit to the site of a bridge being built across Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait.
There was no mention of protests by Gulen’s supporters on Friday and Saturday when police used tear gas and water cannon to disperse large crowds gathered outside of the newspaper.
Rights groups and European officials criticised the seizure, saying it infringed on press freedom in the EU candidate country.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who is flying to Brussels for an emergency summit on refugees on Monday, rejected that charge, saying a legal process was under way to investigate illicit financing of a “terrorist” organisation and that there had been no political interference.
Erdogan and Davutoglu accuse Gulen of plotting to topple the government in 2013 after police suspected of belonging to the religious movement leaked a corruption investigation into Erdogan’s family and ministers.
Some 50 people stood outside the paper’s Istanbul offices again on Sunday, witnesses said.
The atmosphere was calm.
At just 12 pages, Sunday’s paper was a slim version of previous editions and with sparse content.
Zaman’s website was offline, with a message that read: “We will provide you, our readers, with a better quality and more objective service as soon as possible.”
The website of the English-language Today’s Zaman, which was also confiscated, featured stories about the takeover and the EU’s critical response but had not been updated since Saturday.
Zaman’s editors were once largely supportive of Erdogan, who served as prime minister between 2003 and 2014 before winning the presidency, but differences emerged over foreign policy and a government plan to shut schools run by Gulen’s followers.
The paper’s editor-in-chief, Abdulhamit Bilici, was fired on Saturday, editors said.
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