Turkey’s public media has no place for opposition

Turkey’s public media has no place for opposition

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has released figures for the election coverage of the Turkish Radio and TV Corporation (TRT) during the March 30 local elections campaign.

TRT is Turkey’s public broadcaster. Its budget is provided by the government, based on parliamentary approval and scrutiny as it uses taxpayers’ money. It has a particular law regulating its activities, and its employees are regarded as civil servants. By law it has to make impartial news coverage when it comes to political parties, in line with their representation at Parliament.

Currently there are four parties with a “group,” (meaning at least 20 seats out of the total 550), at Parliament.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) has 313 seats at the moment. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has 131 seats, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) has 52 seats. There are a total of 14 independent (no party membership) deputies and 27 MPs from the Kurdish problem-focused Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) joined a newly established Kurdish-leftist party called the People’s Democracy Party (HDP) right after the local elections, leaving the BDP with only two seats. Eleven seats are empty.

So now let’s see some figures about the duration of news coverage by TRT during the election campaign:

- From Feb. 22 to March 2:

  AK Parti - 13 hours, 32 minutes
  CHP - 00 hours, 45 minutes
  MHP - 00 hours, 42 minutes
  BDP (HDP) - 00 hours, 02 minutes

- From March 15 to March 21:

  AK Parti - 17 hours, 36 minutes
  CHP - 1 hour, 01 minute
  MHP - 1 hour, 00
  BDP (HDP) - Not available

It is obvious that there is no balance or care for legal obligations in TRT’s broadcasting, despite a warning from the YSK during the campaign. TRT gives an advantage according to the ruling AK Parti’s requirements.

Quoting those figures yesterday, CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu asked those who put the blame for authoritarianism tendencies in Turkey on the “ineffective opposition” to be more fair. That theme is popular among (especially Western) diplomatic quarters in Turkey

It’s not only TRT, and not only the CHP. All opposition parties complain about the lack of coverage of their activities in all media outlets, public or private. In pro-government media, it is practically impossible for them to find coverage if they use words in direct contrast with government policies. In media outlets still trying to be as balanced as possible, coverage of the opposition attracts the displeasure of government figures.

This is a cross-section of politics and the media in today’s Turkey.