‘Turkish media was ordered not to use İmamoğlu’s name’ - journalist

The name Ekrem İmamoğlu has disappeared from Turkish media outlets which have been ordered not to refer to the opposition’s Istanbul mayoral candidate by name, veteran journalist Fehmi Koru said on Thursday. 

Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its mayoral candidate, former Prime Minister, Binali Yıldırım, have stepped up their campaign for Istanbul election rerun on June 23, after the Supreme Election Council annulled the election held on March 31. The decision came after the AKP appealed citing severe irregularities.

İmamoğlu, the candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), won the Istanbul local polls on March 31 with a narrow margin and is leading the race for the rerun, according to various pollsters

Government-affiliated media outlets and social media accounts in the past two weeks have refrained from using İmamoğlu’s full name in their reports and posts and call him the “CHP candidate” instead.

“It happens that the order came from high above (in the Turkish government): The media was advised not to use Ekrem İmamoğlu’s name… Instead of his name, the media was asked to call him ‘the CHP candidate’ or, if mentioning his surname is inevitable, “CHP candidate İmamoğlu’,” said Koru.

The journalist said he had initially dismissed talk of the order as hearsay, but that he had noted a shift in publications from using İmamoğlu’s name to calling him “the CHP candidate”, lending weight to the rumours. 

According to Koru, the only reason for such a ban could be the fact that the opposition candidate’s surname, which means the son of an imam in Turkish, could be appealing for conservative voters who are put off by the connotations of voting for the secularist CHP. 

“They probably thought that when he is called the ‘CHP candidate’, the conservative voters will refrain from voting for CHP,” Koru said.

Ahead of the March 31 polls, several political analysts and Bekir Ağırdır, the head of Turkey’s leading pollster Konda, said that AKP voters were hesitant to vote for opposition parties, even if they were unhappy with the policies of the Turkish government, due to deep polarisation in the country. 

However, some AKP voters supported İmamoğlu, the CHP candidate, on March 31 and many more could vote for him on June 23, according to Koru. 

The journalist said that instead of giving such orders to the media, the ruling party should ponder on the outcome of the first Istanbul vote and its causes. “When it is noticed that they are acting in accordance with orders and instructions, the situation of media outlets and their authors, whose credibility has already hit the lowest level, gets even worse in the eyes of those that follow them,” Koru said.