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

Turkish opposition newspaper Zaman printed a smiling picture of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on its front page on Sunday, two days after the police used tear gas and water cannon to force their way into the paper's headquarters in Istanbul.

The front page of the mass-circulation paper - the largest opposition paper in the country, with a daily Turkish readership of 850,000 print copies - also featured an article about the construction of a nearly finished bridge over the Bosphorus Strait supported by Erdogan.

Following the government takeover of the paper's offices on Friday night, the headquarters reopened on Saturday under heavy police guard and with the dismissal of the editor-in-chief. Tear gas was used a second time to disperse protesters who had gathered outside the office building.

Zaman is seen as being affiliated with the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Islamic preacher who fell out of grace with Erdogan in recent years. The government has pushed the line that the preacher's movement, known as Hizmet (Service), is a terrorist group.

Zaman is the latest media outlet to face the strong arm of the government, after authorities took over other critical media outlets, including newspaper and television stations allegedly affiliated with Gulen. Leftist media houses are also facing restrictions.

Erdogan, who has led Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and since 2014 as president, insists Turkey has the freest media in the world.

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