Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, Turkey’s main opposition leader and presidential candidate, criticized public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) for acting like the mouthpiece of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) during a campaign speech aired on the channel.
TRT on Sunday broadcast the 10-minute campaign speeches of the four presidential candidates — Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kılıçdaroğlu, Homeland Party (MP) Chairman Muharrem İnce, current president and AKP leader Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Sinan Oğan, the candidate of a bloc of four far-right parties.
Kılıçdaroğlu said in his speech that he would use his time on TRT not to spread propaganda but to tell people about “the truth that the state television has been hiding” from them.
Kılıçdaroğlu accused TRT of failing to cover a number important developments, including the story of 41 miners who died in a mining disaster in northwestern Turkey in October and government officials’ responsibility for it, and the assassination Sinan Ateş, an academic and former president of the Grey Wolves — the far-right Nationalist Movement Party’s (MHP) youth wing — in the capital city of Ankara in late December.
He also accused TRT, which he said was established to provide public broadcasting independent of politics and exists to provide impartial and real news, of being under the control of the government and repeating its propaganda despite being funded with taxpayer dollars.
Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) members İlhan Taşçı and Tuncay Keser from the CHP last week revealed that the TRT Haber TV channel allocated nearly 33 hours of screen time to Erdoğan between April 1 and May 1, while giving only 32 minutes of coverage to Kılıçdaroğlu, his main rival, in the same period.
“On May 14, you will not only vote for me, but for everyone who seeks justice [in Turkey]. You will change this corrupt system,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Meanwhile, Erdoğan argued in a speech on TRT that as a person who has spent 40 years in politics and 20 years leading the country as prime minister and president, he has no other “earthly ambition.”
He said he invites “everyone who has contributed with their labor, sweat, intellectual effort and input to the level Turkey has reached today” to rally around his dream for the country’s future.
Oğan also pointed out in a speech that TRT had failed to give equal coverage to all presidential candidates despite the fact that the constitution designates TRT as an autonomous institution.
The candidate of the ATA Alliance, a bloc of four parties — the Victory Party (ZP), Justice Party (AP), My Country Party (ÜP) and Turkey Alliance Party (TÜİP) — known for their nationalist stances, Oğan also promised to send Syrians and other refugees in Turkey back to their countries as his first action if he is elected president.
Turkey hosts nearly 3.5 million Syrian refugees who have fled civil war and were registered under temporary protection as of April 2023, according to official figures.
Refugees in Turkey are frequently targeted by Turkish politicians, who hold them responsible for the social and economic problems in the country.
Candidate İnce also underlined that public trust in such state institutions as the central bank, TRT, the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) and the Red Crescent (Kızılay) hit an all-time low during the 21-year rule of the AKP and that the economy has become unmanageable, with unemployment and poverty on the rise.
The MP leader argued that it was “a mockery of people’s intelligence” when those in power make new promises as if they haven’t been in power for the past 21 years or they have fulfilled their previous promises and also when the opposition appears to believe that they can come to power using the same methods despite having lost multiple elections in the past.