Turkey’s AK Party using state-run TRT as propaganda mouthpiece

In a sign that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is using Turkey’s state-run broadcaster as a mouthpiece for propaganda during the election campaign period, the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) has been giving the lion’s share of campaign coverage airtime to the AK Party and leaving Turkey’s opposition with little chance to get their messages to the public.

The report showed clear violations of Turkish broadcasting law, which prohibits the TRT from engaging in “one-sided and partial” coverage of election campaigns. In a 2007 decision, the Supreme Election Board (YSK) reaffirmed the law, stating that “there will not be one-sided and biased broadcasting” and that “providing equal opportunity is obligatory.”

The regulator’s report, dated March 7, detailed time allocated between Feb. 22 and March 4. The AK Party got 812 minutes, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) got 45 minutes, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) got 48 minutes and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) got only two minutes.

According to the Radikal daily, 89.52 percent of TRT Haber’s broadcast of election campaigns was given to the ruling AK Party, 5.29 percent to the MHP, 4.96 percent to the CHP and only 0.22 percent to the BDP.

“The broadcast time allocations do not provide the equal opportunity for political parties that the public might expect,” Radikal said. The allocations, the daily stressed, violate both RTÜK regulations and the YSK’s decision prohibiting one-sided and partial coverage of election campaigns.

RTÜK’s report on the TRT’s campaign coverage will be sent to the YSK for evaluation. If the YSK decides the TRT is at fault, it will first issue a warning, and if the warning goes unheeded the election board can take punitive action, including stopping broadcasts.

RTÜK representative Süleyman Demirkan told the Hürriyet daily that he and RTÜK representative Ali Öztunç had visited TRT General Directorate and YSK about what he called biased coverage of the election campaigns. The TRT General Directorate promised to be more sensitive and responsive to the issue, Demirkan said, but “the biased coverage is still blatantly obvious.” He also noted that biased election coverage is mostly observed on the state-run TRT.

The issue hits headlines amid heavy pressure on the Turkish media from the AK Party government as the ruling party battles a graft probe that went public on Dec. 17, 2013 and implicated three ministers’ sons as well as businessmen and high ranking officials.

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About yavuzbaydar

Yavuz Baydar has been an award-winning Turkish journalist, whose professional activity spans nearly four decades. In December 2013, Baydar co-founded the independent media platform, P24, Punto24, to monitor the media sector of Turkey, as well as organizing surveys, and training workshops. Baydar wrote opinion columns, in Turkish, liberal daily Ozgur Dusunce and news site Haberdar, and in English, daily Today's Zaman, on domestic and foreign policy issues related to Turkey, and media matters, until all had to cease publications due to growing political oppression. Currently, he writes regular chronicles for Die Süddeutsche Zeitung, and opinion columns for the Arab Weekly, as well as analysis for Index on Censorship. Baydar blogs with the Huffington Post, sharing his his analysis and views on Turkish politics, the Middle East, Balkans, Europe, U.S-Turkish relations, human rights, free speech, press freedom, history, etc. His opinion articles appeared at the New York Times, the Guardian, El Pais, Svenska Dagbladet, and Al Jazeera English online. Turkey’s first news ombudsman, beginning at Milliyet daily in 1999, Baydar worked in the same role as reader representative until 2014. His work included reader complaints with content, and commentary on media ethics. Working in a tough professional climate had its costs: he was twice forced to leave his job, after his self-critical columns on journalistic flaws and fabricated news stories. Baydar worked as producer and news presenter in Swedish Radio &TV Corp. (SR) Stockholm, Sweden between 1979-1991; as correspondent for Scandinavia and Baltics for Turkish daily Cumhuriyet between 1980-1992, and the BBC World Service, in early 1990's. Returning to Turkey in 1994, he worked as reporter and ediytor for various outlets in print, as well as hosting debate porogrammes in public and private TV channels. Baydar studied informatics, cybernetics and, later, had his journalism ediucatiob in the University of Stockholm. Baydar served as president of the U.S. based International Organizaton of News Ombudsmen (ONO) in 2003. He was a Knight-Wallace Fellow at University of Michigan in 2004. Baydar was given the Special Award of the European Press Prize (EPP), for 'excellence in journalism', along with the Guardian and Der Spiegel in 2014. He won the Umbria Journalism Award in March 2014 and Caravella/Mare Nostrum Prize in 2015; both in Italy. Baydar completed an extensive research on self-censorship, corruption in media, and growing threats over journalism in Turkey as a Shorenstein Fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.
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