“Dear viewers,” a Bugun TV anchor casually announced during the early morning broadcast, “do not be surprised if you see police in our studio in the upcoming minutes.” Outside, police were leading journalists away in handcuffs, while citizens — many of them journalists who worked in the building — protested the dawn raid as police attempted to disperse the growing crowd with tear gas and water cannons.

Scenes of riot police suddenly and forcefully storming media outlets perceived to be critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have become increasingly common in Turkey. In June the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) won 13 percent of the vote in the Parliamentary election, thereby surpassing the 10 percent electoral threshold needed for Parliamentary representation and taking away seats from President Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Crackdown Ahead of Elections

As the November 1 elections approach — a “snap” election called by the AKP in hopes of regaining a Parliamentary majority — press freedom advocates are concerned that the increasing raids on media outlets and attacks on journalists represent a dire threat to Turkish democracy.

“This pressure and attacks have significantly impacted journalists’ ability to report on matters of public interest freely and independently,” said Muzaffar Suleymanov, a researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists Europe and Central Asia Program, at a recent press conference hosted by an emergency press freedom mission to Turkey. “In a practical sense, attacks on journalists compromise their work and affect the public’s ability to make an informed decision to vote.”

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