Fethullah Gulen
Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania Reuters

The row between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and media outlets linked to Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, US, is just the latest incident in an all-out war for power in the country.

Correspondents from Turkey's largest daily newspaper, Zaman, as well as Bugun, Samanyolu TV station and Cihan news agency said they have been barred from entering the presidential palace since Erdogan became the first president elected directly by the Turkish people.

They accused Erdogan of attempting to wipe out Hizmet (Service), the name given to the eponymous Gulen movement which has a worldwide network of private schools, media outlets and charities.

The 70-year-old preacher and his movement have been accused of being behind a wave of high-profile arrests that shook the moderate-Islamist government of the then-prime minister Erdogan. Forty-seven businessmen and politicians, including the sons of three Cabinet ministers, were put in custody on corruption and bribery charges.

Erdogan accused Gulen of orchestrating the scandal against his inner circle in an attempted "judicial coup" and of building a "parallel state" with extensive influence in the Turkish police and judiciary. Reports that Gulen members infiltrated the secret services, law enforcement offices and the AK party itself have circled in Turkish media for some time.

Tercan Ali Basturk of the Gulen-affiliated Journalists and Writers Foundation, called the latest ban a "war, a fight, an effort to wipe out Hizmet".

A deepening rift

Tensions between Gulen and Erdogan, a former ally, worsened over the past few years and exploded with the graft probe in December.

The former prime minister and current president sought to purge the judiciary and police of Gulen's influence and called for the cleric's extradition to Turkey.

The row extended to businesses linked to the preacher, in particular to Islamic lender Bank Asya whose shares dropped after state-owned firms and institutions withdrew huge deposits earlier this year.

Both Gulenists and Erdogan's AK party were long persecuted by the secularist generals that saw themselves as guardians of the secular state founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey.

When the moderate Islamist AKP took power in 2002, the Gulen movement provided indispensable support for Erdogan with its extensive influence in the media, police and judicial system.

After AKP swept to a second term five years later, pro-Gulen prosecutors cracked down on generals through the "Ergenekon trial" of hundreds of alleged coup plotters.

Gulenists seized the opportunity to take revenge on former rivals, including the military.

World-renowned journalists such as Ahmet Sik and Nedim Sener were searched and arrested in 2011 for their work critical of Gulen's network.

But the struggle for power and influence in Turkey turned the former friends against each other for the control of Turkish politics.

Basturk has accused the government of using the same methods the military used in the past to silence the press. "The only thing that has changed are the oppressors and the oppressed. Power has changed hands, but the old limitations on freedom have not," Basturk said.