With the violent police seizure of Turkey’s biggest independent newspaper this weekend, the country has finally crossed the line to become a fully-fledged dictatorship. For many months now, the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been cracking down on media as part of a wider move towards an increasingly authoritarian regime under his ruling Justice and Development Party.
Brutal, chaotic scenes at the offices of Zaman newspaper in Istanbul and its related publications this weekend prove beyond doubt that Erdogan's regime has now openly embraced dictatorship. This in a country which has a long history of military coups and genocidal authoritarianism.
The media group which owns Zaman, Feza Media, has been accused of "consorting with terrorists" connected to Kurdish separatists. A Turkish court then ordered at the end of last week that the newspaper be taken into administration under editors appointed by the government.
The charges are flagrantly trumped-up, of course. Zaman and its English-language daily, Today's Zaman, are "guilty" of nothing other than providing critical reports and analysis of Erdogan's government, especially over its reprehensible role in Syria's conflict since 2011.
"Consorting with terrorists" is the blanket charge that Erdogan is throwing at other independent Turkish media. Dozens of journalists have been arrested on similar charges. While other media outlets have been likewise closed down by Erdogan's ruling party.
Under Turkey's state constitution, freedom of media is supposed to be guaranteed from government interference. Clearly, Turkey can no longer pretend to be a democratic state. The constitution has been sacked in the most graphic way. It is now a dictatorship where those who criticize the "ruler" are liable to receive prison sentences because they are either "terrorist supporters" or "insulting" his ego.
The increasingly despotic nature of Turkey under Erdogan is intimately bound up with his regime's criminal aggression towards Syria. Over the past five years, Erdogan has moved from covert sponsorship of terror proxies in Syria to a blatant role in waging aggression.