Dramatic scenes from the crackdown on Zaman

Photo from Zaman shows Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli getting cheers from colleagues as he leaves the headquarters of the Zaman newspaper.
Photo from Zaman shows Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanli getting cheers from colleagues as he leaves the headquarters of the Zaman newspaper.

We all have tumultous days at work, whether it be huge news events or internal changes. But few of us have experienced what has transpired at the offices of Zaman, Turkey’s largest daily paper. Zaman hosts the annual “Design Days” event for students and is a longtime supporter/participant in SND.

On Dec. 14 Turkish authorities raided Zaman’s offices and detained its editor-in-chief, Ekrem Dumanli, as part of a wider media crackdown. Dumanli was held for five days. He was among more than two dozen journalists detained that day on charges of “establishing and administrating an armed organization” before his release. The charges were based on three articles published in Zaman five years ago.

Click here to see a video (with English subtitles) produced by Zaman detailing the events.

Human rights organizations and the world’s media, including The Washington Post, and the UAE’s The National have condemned the actions.

I asked Zaman design director Fevzi Yazici if he could update us on the situation.

It appears you have been able to publish every day during this crackdown. Is that correct?
First of all I must tell you that we are still brave enough to tell the truth. We have been publishing Zaman without our editor-in-chief Ekrem Dumanli. There have been so many preventions and rights violations by the prosecutor and the police. Turkey is still a democratic country but the direction the government following is opposite. The reason they started this operation is to hide a big corruption trial. They don’t want us to write about it.

Zaman design director Favzi Yazici
Zaman design director Favzi Yazici

Have you been allowed to cover the detentions of Mr. Dumanli and the other journalists?
In the beginning the prosecutor was hiding the accusation. So our lawyers didn’t know how to defend our editor. After 5 days in detention Mr. Dumanli was sent to the court and the judge explained the accusation. Ekrem Dumanli detained due to publishing two columns and one report about a terrorist organization which supports Al Qaeda in 2009. (The pieces were critical of the Al Qaeda-affiliated Tahsiyeciler group) He published the articles. So these articles and the report was part of our so-called act of terrorism.

Tell me about the atmosphere in the newsroom.
Our newsroom acts with solidarity like never before. Our team members are preparing the paper with passion. We publish every issue with two cover pages to explain what is going on for our readers. Our circulation increased and passed 1 million copies. Zaman is selling about 50,000 more copies every day. People are reacting against this operation by buying the paper. Although we raised our voice, most of the media is silenced in Turkey. Most journalist are so timid to oppose the oppression.
Right now we are part of the news which is weird. It this case we know what is right and what is wrong because we have been eyewitnessing every details. Turkey and the world consider us as the source of the news. It gives us more responsibility to be precise and we are aware of it.
We started a new campaign for press freedom in Turkey and worldwide. You and members of SND can support the campaign by taking a photo with our hashtag #FreeMediaCannotBeSilenced. I want to reach as many as People from design and journalism community to get support. Our colleagues can take group photos or personal photo in their newsrooms or anywhere with our tag to support this campaign. After taking the photo you and they can send it to me and share it on twitter and facebook with our hashtag (#FreeMediaCannotBeSilenced).

About Stephen Komives

Previously served as Executive Director of the Society for News Design, from 2009–2019.

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