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State-run TRT provided 91 times more airtime to Erdoğan than to rival Kılıçdaroğlu

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Public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) dedicated 91 times more airtime to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan than to Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, his main rival in the May 14 presidential election, between April 1 and May 11, local media reported on Saturday.

According to Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) member İlhan Taşçı from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the TRT Haber TV channel covered Erdoğan for over 48 hours, while it covered Kılıçdaroğlu, leader of the CHP and the joint presidential candidate of the Nation Alliance, for 32 minutes in total.

Erdoğan’s ally, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, also appeared for nearly 29 hours in TRT Haber’s election rally coverage, in the same period.

“The time allocated to presidential candidates on TRT Haber, a taxpayer-funded public broadcaster, says everything,” Taşçı tweeted on Saturday, criticizing the station’s general manager, Mehmed Zahid Sobacı, for giving priority to Erdoğan.

Taşçı said last week that the channel covered Erdoğan’s Public Alliance for over 59 hours between April 1 and May 1, while it covered only two parties from the Nation Alliance, the main opposition bloc of six parties, for 42 minutes in total.

He accused TRT Haber of acting like a “PR firm” for Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

During a 10-minute campaign speech aired on the channel on May 7, Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized TRT for acting like the mouthpiece of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and failing to cover a number of important developments, including the story of 41 miners who died in northwestern Turkey in October and government officials’ responsibility for it.

TRT was subordinated to the president’s office with a decree issued in 2018.

During election campaign periods in past years, TRT has been harshly criticized for discriminating against opposition parties while giving extensive coverage to the election campaigns of Erdoğan and his AKP government.

Most rallies for Erdoğan and the AKP are broadcast live by the station during election campaigns.

Erdoğan, who has been in power for over 20 years, is facing his toughest challenge yet in May 14 elections, with some opinion polls showing him losing support to Kılıçdaroğlu.

The president has been held responsible for the country’s worst economic crisis in recent years and for a poor response to earthquakes that hit the country’s south in February, killing tens of thousands and leaving millions homeless.

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