Ekrem Imamoglu, mayoral candidate of the main opposition Republican People's Party, CHP, speaks to the media in Ankara on May 7, 2019. (AP)
CAIRO - 22 May 2019: CNN’s Turkish channel was criticized after it cut short an interview with the opposition candidate for Istanbul mayor as he began to talk about the municipality’s “extravagant” spending.
Social media users lashed out at CNN Turk after it stopped Monday night’s interview with Ekrem Imamoglu of the Republican People’s Party half an hour ahead of schedule.
One Twitter user @muratagirel suggested CNN Turk change the program’s name from “Unbiased Zone” to “Biased Zone.”
Imamoglu was dramatically stripped of his victory in March’s vote after the country’s top election body annulled the results over claims of “irregularities” and ordered a new election for June 23.
He is rarely given time on Turkish screens, whereas President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivered almost daily televised speeches ahead of the March vote on behalf of ruling party candidate Binali Yildirim, a former prime minister.
Imamoglu was interrupted by the CNN Turk anchor as he began to talk about the lavish spending in Istanbul municipality which he said he discovered during his brief 18-day stint as mayor.
He held up placards depicting alleged waste, such as high numbers of unnecessary official cars, and said his campaign would focus on turning this information into savings.
This prompted the anchorman, Ahmet Hakan, first to interrupt him for a commercial break and then to end the program entirely when Imamoglu insisted on talking about the finances.
Imamoglu countered that the interview was supposed to last 30 minutes more, but was told time was up.
Many social media users reacted with anger, such as one person on Twitter who wrote: “Ahmet Hakan you are a very bad journalist ... are you aware that the time is up for you and those like you?”
The Istanbul Municipality responded late Monday, denying Imamoglu’s allegations about the official cars and said the claims amounted to “intentional distortion” to manipulate public opinion.
Turkey is ranked 157th in the world for press freedom by Reporters Without Borders, which says the government has increasingly seized control of media outlets and is the world’s biggest jailer of professional journalists.
CNN Turk has been mocked in the past for toeing the government line, particularly during the “Gezi Park” protests in 2013, when it ran a documentary about penguins instead of covering the demonstrations.
It is a joint venture of CNN’s parent company, Turner Broadcasting System International, and Turkey’s privately owned Dogan Media Group.
Dogan was sold last year to Demiroren Group, which has close ties to Erdogan.