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.