Turkish opposition leader defies media embargo on her presidential campaign

Meral Akşener

Meral Akşener, the İYİ Party candidate for Turkey’s presidential election on June 24, challenged the lack of media coverage of her campaign, saying she will continue meeting with the people, the Diken news website reported on Sunday.

According to a report drafted by Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), which monitors the broadcasting of national television and radio stations, the İYİ Party and its presidential candidate Akşener were able to appear on public broadcaster TRT for only 9 minutes, 30 seconds, while the election alliance of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its ultra-nationalist ally Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) were allocated 37 hours, 40 minutes and two seconds of airtime between April 17 and May 6.

Speaking to Fatih Altaylı, a columnist for the Haber Türk daily, Akşener said that “I will not give up. Those who prevent me from appearing in the media will give up in the end.”

“I don’t blame the media. I understand their situation. But we will not disappear due to the lack of media coverage. We are with the citizens. We are everywhere in Turkey except in the media.”

The RTÜK report shows that TRT aired all opposition parties and their presidential candidates for a total of three hours, 13 minutes and 58 seconds. TRT did not allocate even one second to the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) or the Felicity Party (SP) and their presidential candidates in the same period.

On May 5, Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) candidate Muharrem İnce called on TRT to broadcast his campaign rallies, warning that he would go to their offices with 130 members of parliament to protest if TRT continues to discriminate against him and his gatherings.

Recalling that TRT is funded by taxpayer money, İnce said, “If you keep doing this, then don’t take the taxes for TRT from the electric bills of CHP supporters.”

The ABC daily reported that in addition to TRT, private news channels CNN Türk, NTV and Haber Türk, which are owned by businessmen close to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, did not broadcast İnce’s rally.

In a similar move, the Hürriyet newspaper, the flagship of Doğan Media Group, which was bought by the pro-Erdoğan Demirören Group in March, cancelled an interview with İnce to be published on May 6.

Media coverage of the election campaigns of President Erdoğan and his ruling AKP and opposition leaders and parties in recent years has been strongly criticized.

A report on March 28 on the media coverage of political parties revealed that pro-Kurdish HDP members have not been invited to appear on news stations NTV, CNN Türk and Haber Türk and that no HDP parliamentary group meetings have been aired since March 17, 2015.

During the last such meeting broadcast by the top TV news channels, the HDP’s then-Co-chairperson Selahattin Demirtaş said they would not allow then-Prime Minister Erdoğan to become president.

Demirtaş has been in prison since Nov. 4, 2016.

The report also revealed that as of March 28, no HDP members had appeared as guests on CNN Türk for 650 days, NTV for 883 days and Haber Türk for 751 days.

The HDP was only allotted three hours on state-run TRT during the April 1-June 7, 2015 election campaign period, while Erdoğan’s ruling AKP appeared for 188 hours, the main opposition CHP for 14 hours and the MHP 7,5 hours. In the same period private TV channels A Haber, ATV, Kanal 24, Beyaz TV, Ülke TV, TGRT, Kanal 7 and Kanal A covered the HDP for a total of 492 minutes, but 415 of them were taken up by anti-HDP propaganda.

During the campaign leading up to the Nov. 1, 2015 elections, TRT and 12 national TV channels aired then-AKP Chairman Ahmet Davutoğlu for 310 hours, CHP Chairman Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu for 44 hours, MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli for 29 hours and HDP Co-chairperson Demirtaş for six hours.

According to the report, President Erdoğan appeared for 806 hours on 12 TV news channels in the month prior to a referendum on April 1, 2017, while the CHP appeared for 480 hours, the MHP for 24.5 hours and the HDP just 58 minutes. (turkishminute.com)

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