ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A newspaper close to an Islamic cleric foe of Tayyip Erdogan said its editor had been remanded in custody ahead of trial on charges of insulting the Turkish president, fueling fears of a media clampdown ahead of a Nov. 1 election.
The English-language Today’s Zaman chief editor Bulent Kenes was detained at its Istanbul offices on Friday, Dogan news agency said, and sent to Metris jail in Istanbul by court order.
A crowd of around 200 people gathered at the offices of the paper and chanted support for Kenes on Friday as he was taken away over charges of insulting Erdogan on Twitter. Protesters held up banners saying “Free media cannot be silenced”.
Police and court officials were not immediately available to comment.
“They are trying to silence the media. This is not befitting Turkey. Our people will never accept this,” Kenes was reported as telling the assembled media.
The newspaper is staffed by many supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, and it is sympathetic to his views as well as being fiercely critical of the government.
Erdogan accuses Gulen of seeking to overthrow him by means of a “parallel structure” of supporters in the judiciary, police, the media and other institutions.
Gulen has denied such charges and Erdogan’s opponents say recent developments are an attempt to silence opposition before the polls, where Erdogan wants the ruling AK Party which he founded to win back the majority which it lost in a June vote.
Human rights groups say Turkey has one of the worst records for media freedom and for imposing long pre-trial detentions. The government denies this and says it does not try to silence dissent.
Earlier this week Turkey’s largest pay-TV platform removed channels close to Gulen from its services on the order of a prosecutor. Last month prosecutors launched an investigation into Dogan Media Group (DOHOL.IS) for alleged “terrorism propaganda”.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Ralph Boulton