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Uproar as CNN Turk abruptly cuts interview with deposed Istanbul mayor

The CNN Turk news channel was criticized for abruptly cutting a live interview with opposition mayoral candidate for Istanbul as he began to talk about lavish spending at the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality (IBB) during the ruling party’s rule.

Ekrem Imamoglu, Istanbul’s deposed mayor and mayoral candidate from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), was a guest on a televised sit-in interview hosted by Ahmet Hakan on CNN Turk late on Monday.

The anchor interrupted Imamoglu for a commercial break when he started to talk about the extravagant spending in the IBB under Justice and Development (AKP) ruling. Imamoglu said he had discovered this during his brief 18-day tenure as mayor before his dismissal from the mayoral post with Turkey’s election authority.

The Supreme Electoral Council (YSK) stripped Imamoglu of the mayorship after just one month following the March 31 poll and ordered a new election on June 23 on the grounds that there were irregularities.

The anchorman cut the live program short by half an hour as Imamoglu carried on talking about the same topic after the break.

Social media users lashed out at Hakan for his biased attitude.

“We see once against that ‘Unbiased Zone’ is actually ‘Biased Zone,’’’ one Twitter user said, referring to the name of Hakan’s program.

“Ahmet Hakan is a shame to CNN brand!  That is not even neutrality. That is journalism at its worst!” said another person on Twitter.

Early on Tuesday, Imamoglu was again a guest at another program aired on critical news channel Halk TV, evaluating the previous night’s CNN interview.

“They had said the program was to take place between 10 pm and 12 am and we didn’t get a chance to cover the real issues we wanted to,’’ Imamoglu told Halk TV.

The toppled mayor said he welcomed all questions by Hakan, but that it was frustrating to see an anchorman display partisanship. He criticized the channel’s mentality saying it displayed inability.

Through its social media account, CNN Turk responded to the criticism for ending the program, arguing that AKP’s candidate Binali Yıldırım spoke for 1 hour, 18 minutes and 40 seconds during his interview on May 13, while Imamoglu’s interview took 1 hour and 25 minutes on Monday.

However, some social media users questioned the channel’s statement, saying the time quoted for Yildirim was the total speaking time, whereas Imamoglu’s quoted time included the questions and the breaks.

CNN Turk turns from critical to pro-government

CNN Turk is a joint venture of US-based Turner Broadcasting System International and Turkey-based Dogan Media Group.

Dogan had been once criticized by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for being biased against him. The group turned into a pro-government organization following the acquisition of Dogan by Demiroren group, which has close ties to Erdogan in 2018 just before the presidential and parliamentary elections.

Before the local election in March, the channel cut the live interview with Imamoglu without any notice, immediately switching over to a speech by Erdogan. Referring to the break in the broadcast, Imamoglu reacted by saying that he felt sorry for the situation of the media in Turkey.

“They [seniors of the ruling party] are speaking all day long. The media cannot even show a program [while broadcasting those speeches]. I feel sorry for the media in Turkey,” Imamoglu argued, referring to the tendentious situation of pro-government media outlets.

Late in March, CHP’s US representative Yurter Ozcan complained CNN Turk to CNN International as its Turkish franchise allegedly distorted remarks by Sezai Temelli, co-chair of the Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

Ozcan had provided CNN International with another news report by CNN Turk which published detailed lists of opposition candidates for municipal councils who were claimed by AKP to have terror-related links.

In CNN Turk’s report, opposition candidates were listed in detail, including names, photos, ID numbers and intelligence notes stating their alleged links.

The publication just ahead of the local elections drew rebuff from various parties. Critics have raised their concerns about the blacklists of municipal candidates.

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