İnce warns public broadcaster TRT over discriminatory election broadcasting

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Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) candidate for the upcoming snap presidential election Muharrem Ince delivers a speech during the start of his campaign in Ankara on May 4, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate for Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (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, Cumhuriyet reported.

“We had a rally in Yalova. I have not seen such a thing in Yalova in the last 40 years. But TRT didn’t broadcast it. This is my final warning. I will not repeat it. TRT is not your father’s farm. TRT belongs to 80 million people,” said İnce during an election rally in Balikesir on Saturday.

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.”

“If our rallies today are not broadcast, I’m telling you that I will go to TRT with 130 members of parliament next week. Don’t run away.”

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

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

Media coverage of the election campaigns of Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (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 Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) members have not been invited to appear on news stations NTV, CNN Türk and Habertürk 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 Habertürk 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 Nationalist Movement Party (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 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.

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