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Turkish state broadcaster’s chairman faces criminal complaint for discriminatory election coverage

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Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has filed a criminal complaint against the chairman of Turkish Radio and Television (TRT) due to the station’s “discriminatory” coverage of the party’s leader before elections in May.

Turkey held parliamentary and presidential elections in May. CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who ran as the joint candidate of an opposition alliance, was defeated by the incumbent president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in a runoff election held on May 28.

The criminal complaint against TRT Chairman Mehmet Zahid Sobacı was filed by the CHP provincial branches in Ankara and İstanbul on Wednesday.

Following the legal filing, CHP İstanbul provincial chair Canan Kaftancıoğlu issued a statement in front of the Çağlayan Courthouse in İstanbul, while CHP Ankara provincial chair Ali Hikmet Akıll spoke to the press at the Ankara Courthouse.

Kaftancıoğlu said TRT is a state agency that is funded by the taxpayers, yet it has pursued a discriminatory broadcasting policy since Sobacı took office in July 2021. She accused the broadcaster of either ignoring the CHP’s activities in its broadcasts or giving negative coverage to the party.

Around 70 percent of TRT’s funding comes from a tax levied on electricity bills. Every time a Turkish taxpayer pays an electricity bill, 2 percent of the amount due goes to TRT.

“In particular, in the run-up to the elections TRT did not work like a state broadcaster but as the propaganda machine of the AKP [ruling Justice and Development Party],” Kaftancıoğlu said, adding that the broadcaster’s discriminatory stance against the CHP will go down in the history books as a “black stain.”

Kılıçdaroğlu was never invited to a program on TRT during his election campaign, while Erdoğan was featured on TRT many times.

When TRT broadcast the 10-minute campaign speeches of the four presidential candidates in early May, Kılıçdaroğlu dedicated a part of his speech to criticize TRT, accusing it acting like the mouthpiece of the AKP.

TRT, which many say has turned the AKP’s backyard, with its jobs being filled by the AKP cronies, is harshly criticized by opposition parties in Turkey for giving little or no coverage to their activities and favoring the AKP in its broadcasts.

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