Turkish PM denies government involvement in media group seizure

The political spotlight is on Turkey at today’s EU summit...

Turkish PM denies government involvement in media group seizure

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu arrives at EU summit. Picture by: Geert Vanden Wijngaert / AP/Press Association Images

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has denied that his government was involved in the seizure of Feza Media Group, which includes the country’s largest newspaper, Zaman.

Speaking on Sunday, Davutoglu argued that it was a court decision for the group to be placed under the management of government trustees and noted that Feza is accused of money laundering and of links to the outlawed movement of exiled preacher Fethullah Gülen.

Davutoglu told Ahaber TV:

Our government is not involved in the issue. The decisions made by the judicial bodies have been implemented. It is entirely legal process. No one should have any doubts as for press freedom in Turkey.”

Following the court order on Friday, police forcibly entered the Zaman building in Istanbul, with plastic bullets, water cannons and tear gas used on the large group of protesters gathered outside. Ahead of the raid, Zaman published its final edition, calling it a "shameful day for free press".

Human Rights Watch decried the raid as "nothing but a veiled move by the president to eradicate opposition media and scrutiny of government policies".

Davutoglu is in Brussels today for a summit meeting with EU leaders on the refugee crisis. With some 2,000 migrants arriving in Greece from Turkey every day, the EU Commission has promised 700 million in refugee aid to Turkey and will be putting the pressure on the country to do their utmost to slow the refugee flow.

The closure of Zaman has been widely condemned and should do little to ease tensions at the summit, with European Parliament President Martin Schultz saying of the move: "Turkey is in the process of gambling away the historic opportunity for rapprochement with Europe".