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Opposition media under fire for supporting AKP’s psychological warfare on election night

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Turkey’s pro-opposition media outlets have come under fire on social media for allegedly providing support to the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) psychological warfare tactics with their coverage on the night of the May 14 parliamentary and presidential elections.

The Halk TV, KRT TV and Sözcü TV channels and the ANKA news agency, which are critical of the AKP government, were accused of amplifying the negative perception the AKP attempted to spread among the opposition’s voter base on election night.

The criticism was mainly focused on the media outlets’ coverage of data from the state-run Anadolu news agency, which has a unique algorithm that initially assigns high scores to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan but eventually evens out the scores over time, seen as part of the AKP government’s psychological warfare tactics.

The outlets were also criticized for reporting the comments of journalists who negatively assessed the performance of the opposition parties and candidates during live broadcasts before all the votes were counted.

Some journalists who were aligned with opposition parties commented on the slim chances of Erdoğan’s main rival, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, of winning the presidential race in the first round and the likelihood of the election going to a second round just a few hours after the announcement of the results had begun.

According to many, such remarks undermined the motivation of opposition poll observers who were still monitoring the vote count at the ballot boxes at the time.

Anadolu’s figures showed Erdoğan picking up 49.3 percent of the vote while Kılıçdaroğlu was trailing with 45.0 percent — a disappointing outcome after late pre-election polls had shown him in the lead.

“The ANKA news agency is a complete disgrace, worse than Anadolu. Opposition channels should only cover the ‘signed and stamped minutes’ [of the election results],” lawyer Cemil Çiçek said.

“Both ANKA and Halk TV have secretly provided psychological support to the AKP. … Halk TV is persistently trying to create the perception that the elections will go to a second round,” journalist Nedim Hazar said in a series of tweets.

“I don’t know why, but they are making comments on Halk TV that the election will go to a second round. I am surprised. There are still 12 million votes that haven’t been counted yet,” Turkish film actress Müjde Ar said, describing that election day as “the most shameful day in the history of Turkish media.”

Journalist Mehmet Yaşar Altundağ slammed the “withered” broadcasters and experts on Halk TV for starting to talk about how successful Erdoğan has been and how he has an advantage in the second round “as if there isn’t a 21-year-old government dominating every aspect of life, from the media to the bureaucracy, right in front of us.”

“Opposition elites are failing on all fronts. TV commentators have lost the psychological war and are constantly pumping negativity to opposition voters,” he added.

Taylan Kulaçoğlu, a popular, anti-government Twitter user, said the opposition “gave away” the election because of the media outlets that pretend to support the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) but evaluated the initial results in line with the perception management tactics of the ruling AKP.

“All so-called opposition channels supported the AKP’s psychological warfare last night,” a Twitter user named Mansur Rüzgardelen also said.

Meanwhile, Cevheri Güven, an investigative journalist living in exile whose videos on YouTube in which he talks about the Turkish government’s corruption and shadowy relations attract hundreds of thousands of viewers, claimed that KRT TV and ANKA, under the control of CHP Vice Chairman Tuncay Özkan, worked for Erdoğan on election night.

He shared a previous video of his in which he talked about the relations between Özkan and Şenkal Atasagun, former head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MİT) and the chief advisor to Erdoğan’s far-right ally and leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli, and a lawsuit in which the CHP MP needed a favor from Erdoğan.

Özkan, who sold the Kanaltürk TV station to businessman Akın İpek’s Koza İpek Group – one of the major conglomerates Turkey’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF) took over after an attempted coup in 2016 – for $30 million in 2008, filed a lawsuit nearly 10 years later demanding an additional $70 million for the station.

A court-appointed expert doubled the amount to $95 million, which Özkan can only receive if Erdoğan orders the relevant court and the TMSF to allow him to have it, according to Güven.

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