ISTANBUL BLOG: Opposition leader Kilicdaroglu scraps with TV channel that backs his party

ISTANBUL BLOG: Opposition leader Kilicdaroglu scraps with TV channel that backs his party
There's no love lost between Kilicdaroglu and Halk TV. / AHaber
By Akin Nazli August 6, 2023

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has unilaterally terminated its agreement with Halk TV, according to a certificate of annulment shared by Eren Erdem, CHP’s deputy chair responsible for media and social media policies.

Erdem is an interesting character. After CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu appointed him to his post following the party’s latest national elections fiasco in May, party media proxies complained a CHP troll army was hitting them below the belt because they were calling on Kilicdaroglu to resign.

Erdem’s latest announcement on the unilateral termination had the effect of revealing that the CHP had such a commercial agreement with Halk TV.

The details of the agreement are still unknown. However, Cafer Mahiroglu, Halk TV’s owner, confirmed that the CHP was paying Halk TV to broadcast its press conferences and Kilicdaroglu’s speeches.

Turkey is in no position to enter discussions on good media ethics. The country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, indirectly owns more than half of Turkish media outlets and controls the remaining half with some carrots—but mainly sticks.

There are only three TV channels—namely KRT and Tele1, in addition to Halk TV—that openly support the CHP. Broadcasting watchdog RTUK regularly fines the trio.

Director of Tele1, Merdan Yanardag, was recently arrested (the accusations were perfect nonsense, as usual) and is still in jail. Tuncay Ozkan, who recently lost his post as a CHP deputy chair, denies that he is the owner of KRT.

Kilicdaroglu—efficiently defeated by Erdogan in the elections—has confirmed, meanwhile, that the CHP also has agreements with some other TV channels. Those channels can only be KRT and Tele1.

No surprise. Turkey in fact long ago lost its ethical bearings in all fields. The country’s moral collapse is an old story, dating back to the military coup in 1980.

Prior to the Erdogan regime, in “Old Turkey”, there was at least a feeling of shame when the unethical behaviour of some politicians came to light. Prosecutions and trials were held. But the Erdogan regime has entirely erased the feeling of shame in society. “They steal but they also work” is the prevailing motto of propaganda of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The words “but they also work” convey the acknowledgment that “they also provide us supporters with our share”. That share can be in the form of social support for people at the bottom of the pyramid, or it can be, for example unmerited jobs or some public tender wins for those at or near the top.

Right at the apex of the pyramid, there is, of course, not a pharaoh but Erdogan.

In this environment, discussions of ethics in the media or any field are akin to a discussion of hygiene in a cesspool.

The news of the Halk TV deal termination shows us that Kilicdaroglu has got to the point where he is fighting with a pro-CHP TV channel in his struggle to face down calls for his resignation.

According to Turkish legislation, political parties cannot launch companies. Halk TV was launched in 2005 by puppet businessmen controlled by the CHP’s then chair Deniz Baykal.

The current CHP is marketed as “Ataturk’s party”. However, the CHP that was launched in 1923 by founder and first president of the republic Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was shut down by the 1980 military coup regime, along with all political parties.

The CHP we see today was launched by Baykal in 1992 since he was unable to get elected as leader of the Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP).

Turkey’s infamous “political parties law”, introduced by the 1980 coup regime, creates little dictators within the parties. The parties’ sources of finance are not transparent. Money, both grey and black, talks.

When someone becomes a party leader, it is not possible to remove them from their post because they have the right to choose which party members can vote in intraparty elections.

In 2001, when the political stage in Turkey was redesigned, Baykal grabbed the role of opposition in a binary game based on the Muslim versus the laicist. After Erdogan started showing signs of the hubris syndrome in 2009, there were grumblings that Turkey required a real opposition. Since it is impossible to replace a party leader with an intraparty election in the country, Baykal was overthrown with a porn video.

After the video was first put in the public domain, Baykal resisted calls for his resignation. Then came speculation that there were more porn videos in the queue. And Baykal quit.

In 2020, Baykal’s daughter Asli Baykal sold Halk TV to Mahiroglu. With the deal terms kept confidential, Mahiroglu has neither confirmed nor denied that he paid $2mn for the acquisition and that he has so far invested around $10-15mn in the channel.

For an idea of the CHP’s present standing, witness the reaction to Kilicdaroglu and other CHP representatives when they last week visited protesters who are demonstrating against the expansion of a coal mine in Mugla province’s Akbelen forest. Some of the protesters gave them something of a turbulent reception.

According to the CHP lawmakers Ali Mahir Basarir and Mahmut Tanal, who were among the visitors to the site, claimed that those who protested against them were AKP provocateurs.

Basarir also remarked that CHP voters would vote for the party despite any such incidents. He’s right. The CHP’s voters have voted for plenty of dubious characters across the past two decades.