ANKARA: Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is to boycott TV channel CNN Turk, after the party claimed its coverage of it was biased.
The CHP also called on its voters not to watch the channel, and to prevent their children from watching it “to protect them” from its dangers.
It is also announced that none of its politicians would appear on CNN Turk in future.
“Rather than being an independent and free news channel, CNN Turk … acts as the mouthpiece and propaganda instrument of the government, and broadcasts in line with the government rather than serving the public interest. CNN Turk works as if it is an advertising company and keeps positioning itself against the CHP ever since the local elections,” CHP’s vice chair, Tuncay Ozkan, said.
CNN Turk, which was established in 1999 in a partnership between Turner Broadcasting System International and Dogan Media Group, was owned by Turkish business tycoon Aydin Dogan.
The group changed hands and was sold to Demiroren Holding in 2018, a company loyal to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), with close links to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Kader Sevinc, CHP’s representative to the EU, said the total collapse of freedom in Turkey’s mainstream media was well-known, and that Turkish outlets had been heavily pressured and restricted for many years.
“CNN Turk is a very good example for the total collapse of the mainstream media in Turkey. It has a clear track-record for manipulative, selective choices of news,” she told Arab News.
The channel was criticized for allegedly spreading fake news about opposition parties before the March 2019 elections, stating that some opposition candidates had ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
It was also heavily criticized after it failed to cover the anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013, and instead chose to air a documentary on penguins, earning it the nickname “Penguin Media.”
Last year, the CHP filed a complaint with CNN International about CNN Turk’s editorial policy and called on the international news channel to withdraw its franchised name from its Turkish channel.
“It is very unfortunate, but CNN Turk is no longer any different to those media outlets acting as mouthpieces for the government,” Sevinc added.
CNN Turk’s coverage of the recent plane crush in Istanbul, which killed three people and injured some 179 others, came under fire when a reporter for the station, whilst interviewing a relative of a survivor of the crash, cut the person off when they started to thank Istanbul’s opposition mayor Ekrem Imamoglu for his response to the accident.
CNN Turk also provided less coverage of Imamoglu’s electoral campaign during the March and June 2019 elections than of his AKP rivals, and cut short an interview when he began talking about the municipality’s lavish spending.
Many mainstream media groups in Turkey are now connected to the government through contracts in banking or tourism, putting them under editorial pressure.
Demiroren Holding is active in many sectors such as energy and tourism. Many journalists critical of the government lost their jobs after CNN Turk changed hands.