The role played by the media in this country which is attached to well know international brand names is an intriguing one.
Fox TV, for example, is generally known to be a biased right-wing channel in the United States that supports President Donald Trump. CNN international, on the other hand, is considered a liberal channel that not only opposes Trump but supports democracy around the world. It is generally believed to be unbiased.
Meanwhile, Sputnik International, as its former name of The Voice of Russia openly hints at, is widely considered to be a mouthpiece for President Vladimir Putin.
Doha based Al Jazeera, for its part, could not even launch its Turkish channel because the government refused to accept its criteria for objective reporting. The close friendship between President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Emir of Qatar did not alter the salutation.
If one was to go on the basis of all this, one would have to conclude that Fox Turkey supports Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), CNN Turk supports the main opposition Republican Peoples Party (CHP), and Sputnik Turkey is not too concerned about democracy in Turkey but is only interested in pushing a propagandist Russian line.
These assumptions, however, do not hold true in Turkey.
Fox Turkey, for example, provides some of the harshest objective criticism of Erdogan and the AKP through its highly popular news presenters Fatih Portakal and Ismail Kucukkaya.
Sputnik Turkey does much the same through its popular radio hosts Zafer Arapkirli and Ceyda Karan, two veteran journalists who are known for their liberal and pro-western outlooks.
CNN Turk used to champion liberal causes in the past – when Sigma founding member Nevsin Mengu presented the widely watched evening news bulletin -until it was bought over by the Demiroren group, which is close to Erdogan.
Today CNN Turk has become nothing more than a mouthpiece for Erdogan and is under fire for its biased reporting or underreporting, as the case may require. All the indications are that it looks to “instructions from above,” rather than subscribing to criteria required by objective reporting.
A case in point was a recent interview on the channel with Ekrem Imamoglu, the CHP’s popular candidate for Istanbul mayor in the June 23 municipal elections.
Imamoglu had his victory in the March 31st municipal election snatched from his hand as a result of highly questionable reasons cited by the Supreme Electoral Board, following an application to the board by the AKP to have a rerun of the elections in Istanbul.
His interview on CNN Turk was cut short abruptly, reportedly following “instructions from above,” leading to an outcry against the channel from liberal democratic quarters.
The CHP applied to CNN International to inform it of what was being done by its sister channel in Turkey. A spokesperson for CNN International was quoted by the Financial Times saying that “CNN Turk has provided assurances and evidence that they are making every effort to provide balanced coverage of the Turkish elections.”
“We are in regular contact with CNN Turk regarding output and editorial practices” the spokesperson added.
CNN International may be “in regular contact” with its sister channel in Turkey, and may have received “assurances” about CNN Turk’s “editorial practices,” but this has not changed much.
What CNN Turk has preferred to do instead is to admit, with impunity, that it is biased and will not change.
According to Yurter Ozcan, the CHP’s representative in the United States, this is what Bora Bayraktar the director of CNN Turk had to say – during a recent trip to Washington with an AKP delegation – about the biased treatment of Imamoglu on his channel
“No one has to watch us. It’s as simple as that. I have a boss and there is no such thing as unbiased broadcasting. Everyone has a stance.”
Bayraktar has not rebutted the remarks attributed to him, even though they were widely reported by the independent Turkish media, so one has to accept them as having been uttered. What he is effectively saying is “damn fair reporting practices, I am my master’s voice.”
The international media has increased its focus on Turkey vastly over the past decade. It also likes to lambaste the Turkish government for its repression of the media. CNN Turk’s current position, however, shows the dark side of the picture when it comes to an internationally respected brand name such as CNN.