Only saying ‘yes’ is free according to Turkey’s Supreme Election Board code: Main opposition

Only saying ‘yes’ is free according to Turkey’s Supreme Election Board code: Main opposition

Only saying ‘yes’ is free according to Turkey’s Supreme Election Board code: Main opposition

AA photo

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has condemned the state of emergency decree stating that the Supreme Election Board (YSK) will cease monitoring private TV channels during Turkey’s upcoming referendum campaign on constitutional changes.

“With the new regulation, only they will call the shots until the referendum and the TV stations will be able to freely broadcast only for the advantage of one side,” Kılıçdaroğlu tweeted on Feb. 9, adding that the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is “scared of the free will of the people.”

“A government that is so afraid of the free will of the people and doubts the truth of what it campaigns for has never been seen before,” he also said. 

According to the new state of emergency decree published in the Official Gazette on Feb. 9, private channels will not have to broadcast in accordance with YSK rules. 

According to the decree, the YSK will not be able to penalize channels that do not comply with the rules of equal broadcasting for both “yes” and “no” sides of the referendum. Limits on political advertisements, rules on speech durations for party representatives and the ban on partaking in unfair competition will also be lifted. 

These regulations were applied in previous election terms, with the YSK determining the penalties for the channels and the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) putting those penalties into force. The regulations were supported staunchly by the AKP in its initial years in office. 

Before the new regulations, authorities could fine and impose broadcasting bans on TV channels. In the Nov. 1, 2015 elections, a total of 580 penalties were given to private TV channels for violating rules. A vast majority of the penalties were given to private channels on grounds that they did not spare enough time for opposition parties.

With the new regulation, the rules of broadcasting during election and referendum terms will be determined solely by RTÜK. Private channels will only be monitored by RTÜK, in line with the general principles of broadcasting. 

The private broadcasters reportedly requested changes to the regulations after being leveled with fines for previous violations. 

Turkey will hold a referendum in mid-April to decide whether to change its government system to an executive presidency giving vastly enhanced powers to the president or to protect the current parliamentary system.

The “yes” vote is endorsed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the AKP, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). 

The parliament has submitted the 18 articles to be included in the constitutional changes, which are currently awaiting the approval of Erdoğan. The final decision on the date of the referendum will be given by the YSK.