turkey, zaman newspaper, novine.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SEDAT SUNA

The Turkish state is poised to take over a major news agency in the country after a court order Monday, following the seizure last week of the Zaman newspaper.

The Cihan news agency is linked to Zaman, once the largest opposition daily by circulation.

However, now controlled by a state-appointed trusteeship, the paper's latest editions toe a pro-government line. The daily's English-language edition, Today's Zaman, fell under the same judicial ruling.

A court order appointed the same state-trusteeship for Cihan, which has text, photo and video departments, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported. Cihan itself had a news item on the order.

The media outlets are all seen as linked to the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic preacher who fell out of favour with Erdogan in recent years.

The government has pushed the line that the preacher's movement, known as Hizmet (Service), is a terrorist group.

Cihan becomes the latest media outlet to face the strong arm of the government. Turkey ranks poorly on press freedom indices.

In Brussels, at a European Union summit with the Turkish government, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu defended Ankara's record on media freedom.

"Nobody can accuse Turkey ... of not having freedom of speech," he said, arguing that his government had no impact on the recent court decisions.

"Freedom of speech is our common value, and there is no doubt that this value has been protected in Turkey and will be protected in Turkey."

EU President Donald Tusk said the bloc "cannot stay indifferent" to the latest developments in Turkey, which for decades has sought to join the European Union: "Freedom of press is and continues to be a key condition to be assessed in the accession process, and there is no change to that."

The United Nations expressed concern Monday about the seizure of Zaman and the harassment of journalists in Turkey.

"Obviously, press outlets, press entities, need to have their independence respected," Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said at UN headquarters in New York.

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