CNN Türk cuts off opposition candidate during live broadcast

One of Turkey’s main television news outlets has been accused of censorship after suddenly cutting a live broadcast featuring an opposition mayoral candidate for Istanbul and switching to a speech by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Wednesday night.

Ekrem İmamoğlu, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) mayoral candidate for Istanbul, had been speaking to host Buket Aydın on the CNN Türk presenter’s interview show “40 Questions” when the broadcast cut out halfway through one of the politician’s answers.

The sudden cut to the president’s speech sparked outrage among viewers and brought the hashtag “CNN Türk censors” (#SansurcuCNNTürk) to the top spot of trending topics in Turkey.

Media rights groups have estimated that, according to circulation figures, around 90 percent of Turkish media is controlled by companies with close links to the country’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

The imbalance has already led to marked differences in coverage for the ruling party and the opposition, with newspapers and television channels accused of sticking uncritically to the government’s line on issues.

The state-run broadcaster TRT faces similar accusations of bias. Figures released by Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council showed the ruling party and its alliance partners had received 53 hours of coverage on TRT compared to the opposition’s six hours.

Turks had already raised their concerns around the “embargo” on opposition coverage on social media before İmamoğlu’s appearance, and Aydın complained to the CHP politician of what she called unfair accusations of bias, which she likened to a “lynch campaign” against her.

Ironically, Aydın challenged İmamoğlu to answer why CHP figures had used the “embargo” hashtag on social media and linked it to her show shortly before the mayoral hopeful was abruptly taken off the air.

“If the public has got that impression, that’s a question you should be asking yourself,” İmamoğlu responded.

İmamoğlu will face the AKP's candidate Binali Yıldırım in the March 31 local elections in a heated battle to become the mayor of Istanbul.