The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), the largest professional journalist organization in Turkey, released a written declaration on Friday condemning the state-run Anadolu news agency (AA) for its biased reporting, notably during the night of the March 31 local elections.
TGC began the statement by reiterating the basic responsibilities of journalists, such as being impartial, reporting with the obligation to serve as watchdogs over public affairs and government, and providing people with information that is accurate, fair and thorough. TGC emphasized that these responsibilities are particularly important during election times.
AA inexplicably halts election data flow
TGC claims that AA could not explain the reason for the 11-hour interruption in the flow of election result data, as well as the source of the data collected during the night of the election.
On the night of the election, there was a neck and neck mayoral race in Istanbul between Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), and Binali Yildirim, mayoral candidate of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
During the early hours of vote counts, Yildirim was ahead of Imamoglu with a regularly narrowing lead. AA suddenly stopped reporting data at 23:20, when CHP’s Imamoglu was only a few thousand votes behind Yildirim, and with only a few ballot boxes left uncounted.
Shortly after the interruption of data, Yildirim declared victory. AA later made a statement saying there had been “no data flow from the field”. Approximately 13 hours after this statement, AA released another statement saying they had suspended the reporting due to the lack of accurate data flow from some ballot boxes and had decided to wait for the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) results.
However, Sadi Güven, the head of YSK, said on the morning after the elections that AA was not a YSK client and he had no idea from where AA had received the election data.
These contradictory statements and AA’s puzzling decision of data suspension have led to conspiracy theories about election manipulation. Critics suspect that the close ties between the ruling AKP and AA could have led to manipulation of the election results.
Utku Cakirozer, a CHP lawmaker, has directed a parliamentary question to Vice President Fuat Oktay in the Turkish parliament regarding AA’s credibility.
Cakirozer invited AA to remove doubts by answering the questions of why it suspended the data flow, and how it received the results of counted ballot boxes. These questions, however, remain unanswered as the agency has not yet provided an explanation for its data suspension and its data source.
AA has a controversial private company structure with 57 percent owned by the Turkish government, also an important business partner of the agency. Many believe, therefore, that AA has become an extension of the ruling party.
TGC calls Anadolu news “AKP agency”
TGC accused AA officials of behaving like political party speakers and for using the agency for that purpose, alleging that their journalism approach has put a black mark on Turkish press history.
“We, as TGC, condemn the journalism approach, such as that of the AA, that hampers the right to transparent information before, during and after elections, that hides sources of information, that aims at misleading the public, and that promotes hatred,” declared TGC.
In a closing remark, the association called for all journalists and media outlets to carry out their duties for the good of the public and not for the ruling party.