Turkey’s third largest party wiped from television screens

The People’s Democratic Party (HDP), Turkey’s third largest party in parliament, has been denied almost any fair television coverage since 2015, the Turkish newspaper Birgün reported on Friday.

The HDP, Turkey’s second largest opposition party, presented a report on its treatment on media channels since the June 2015 general elections, when it became the first pro-Kurdish party to pass the 10 percent electoral threshold and gain representation in parliament.

The report showed that during those years, the party had been denied all but the most cursory opportunity to represent itself. Not a single statement by the party had been broadcast on news channels, and the main news channels had gone hundreds of days without giving any HDP figure a place on their programmes – even when the party was the subject under discussion.

At the time of the report’s publication, no HDP guest had been invited onto NTV for 885 days; nor to HaberTürk for 753 days or CNN Türk for 650 days.

In the period since June 2015, when the ruling Justice and Development Party suffered the unexpected loss of its majority as the HDP earned a place in parliament, two crucial elections have taken place in Turkey.

The HDP has also been hit by legal action in the intervening period, forcing many of its high-profile members, including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ out of parliament.

The AKP won back its majority in snap elections in November 2015, thanks to losses by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and HDP. 

Turkey voted to switch to an executive presidential system in April 2017, in a constitutional referendum that took place under a state of emergency and which has been roundly criticised by international monitors.

The figures presented in the HDP’s report suggest that Turkey’s third largest party was effectively prevented from nationwide campaigning in these two crucial elections. Coverage of the AKP in the referendum dwarfed that of all other parties combined.

To describe channels and media sources as “pro-government” has become somewhat redundant in Turkey, particularly since the sale this month of the Doğan Media Group to a pro-government businessman; an estimated 92 percent of the country’s media outlets are now affiliated with the ruling party.