AFP reports that Turkish police attacked the Istanbul headquarters of a politically vocal media group Wednesday morning. Tensions surrounding the upcoming weekend's elections have escalated to violence.
"Dear viewers, do not be surprised if you see police in our studio in the next few minutes," Journalist Tarik Toros said, as riot police stormed in during a live broadcast of the media group's television stations, Bugun and Kanalturk.
Supporters of the media group gathered outside the compound, including lawmakers from the Republican People's Party (CHP), and engaged with police. The police used tear gas, water cannons, and chainsaws to gain access to the media compound.
On Monday, the Turkish court ordered the seizure of the Koza-Ipek Group, a business conglomerate linked to US-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, regarded as the main enemy of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. An Ankara court appointed a board of trustees to manage the Koza-Ipek Group and seize its 21 companies, including its media operations, as part of a crackdown on Gulen's followers.
Erdogan accuses Gulen of trying to undermine his presidency by instigating an investigation on government corruption in December 2013.
Ankara chief prosecutor's office said in a statement that the move to take over the media group is connected to an ongoing investigation of suspicions of "terror financing", "terror propaganda" and other offences related to Koza-Ipek's support for Gulen's Hizmet movement. In September, police raided Koza-Ipek's media companies as part of a "terrorism probe" into Gulen.
Koza-Ipek CEO Akin Ipek calls the investigation "politically motivated", saying the government has not found any illegal activity within the company.
Press Freedom in Turkey
Monday's ruling to take over the Koza-Ipek Group was met with protests in Ankara and Istanbul on Tuesday.
International media rights organizations have voiced concerns over decreasing press freedom in Turkey since Erdogan's election in August 2015. Many international journalists in Turkey have been deported, while about 20 are currently detained.
The US embassy also showed displeasure with the Turkish government's crackdown on the media.
"When there is a reduction in the range of viewpoints available to citizens, especially before an election, it is a matter of concern," the US embassy in Ankara said in a tweet on Tuesday.
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