Sat. Jun 3rd, 2023

When worldwide election observers issued their preliminary findings following the Might 14 elections in Turkey, they concluded that whereas the competition was “aggressive and largely free,” it was fought on an unlevel enjoying area during which the incumbent and the ruling events, by advantage of biased media protection and restrictions on freedom of expression and meeting, had an “unjustified benefit.” The election noticed President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan safe 49.51% of the vote—simply shy of the 50% wanted to keep away from a Might 28 runoff—to opposition chief Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s 44.88%.

For Nevşin Mengü, considered one of Turkey’s main journalists, the decision hardly got here as a shock. Mengü has seen firsthand the maintain that Erdoğan’s authorities has on the nation’s media panorama. Her crucial reporting of the Turkish President finally price her her job at CNN Türk in 2017, after she reported on his assembly with then U.S. President Donald Trump in a lower than favorable gentle. (She had a earlier run-in with Erdoğan over feedback he made concerning the function of girls in Turkish society.) Mengü has since gone on to current her personal common present on YouTube.

Erdoğan’s management over the Turkish media panorama was significantly palpable within the run as much as the first-round of voting. In April, Erdoğan reportedly benefited from 32 hours of airtime on state tv in comparison with simply 32 minutes for Kılıçdaroğlu.

Learn Extra: Why Erdoğan Is Now the Clear Favourite in Turkey’s Election

TIME caught up with Mengü on the sidelines of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy earlier this month, the place she spoke concerning the state of media freedom in Turkey and what to anticipate from the presidential runoff on Might 28.

TIME: You had been a night information anchor at CNN Türk earlier than leaving the community in 2017. Are you able to speak about what prompted the choice?

Nevşin Mengü: I had been anchoring the 6 o’clock information for some time. The way it works proper now in Turkey is … there are pro-government trolls. They assault folks. They finger-point folks. The identical factor was taking place to me. Professional-government trolls hated me, they had been at all times finger-pointing me and I needed to go to court docket to testify due to that a few instances, due to actually foolish accusations.

There was a Trump-Erdoğan assembly [in May 2017], the primary assembly after Trump was elected. I used to be speaking about that as a result of that was taking place on dwell TV, and I stated mainly that the assembly solely lasted 23 minutes. And this pissed [off] Mr. Erdoğan as a result of he wished to current the assembly like they had been greatest buddies and that it was an extended assembly. He was pissed and thru folks he contacted my boss and he stated they don’t need me anymore. My boss negotiated … after which I left.

In comparison with different folks, it’s not such a tragic story. I used to be simply fired. That’s superb, it occurs.

It’s true that many journalists have fared worse in Turkey, which is without doubt one of the greatest jailers of journalists on the earth. However no matter whether or not a journalist is jailed or fired, the end result is kind of the identical, proper? You had been prevented from doing all your job.

Really, we’re sort of fortunate in comparison with former generations of journalists as a result of now there’s digital media and you are able to do your job wherever. I do know in America, for instance, podcasts are large. You are able to do podcasts, you could find sponsors, and whatnot. In Turkey, YouTube is admittedly large. So due to all this, now, standard media could be very divided. An enormous chunk is pro-government, pro-state, pro-Erdoğan media. They’ve the cash and so they have the means. Then there’s the smaller, pro-opposition media. There may be nothing in between.

Individuals, particularly youthful folks, flip to digital media an increasing number of. Individuals both comply with on Twitter, they flip to YouTube. I’ve a viewer base on YouTube, thank God, and so they donate. So I’ve a small workforce now. This has been a studying expertise for me. I grew to become an entrepreneur journalist, in a way. It’s like a small enterprise, however we try to do idealistically what we will do. We’re doing movies, we’re following the elections. When the Ukraine warfare began, I went there to cowl the warfare. In fact, I can’t be like CNN. However at the least I can do free reporting and other people worth that now in Turkey.

You coated the primary spherical of the Turkish election. What did you make of the end result? Has there been a way of deflation among the many opposition?

I’m actually sorry for the opposition voters as a result of they’re craving for some hope, for one thing, somebody to take the duty. The opposition is in shock proper now. As a result of the factor is, they believed that they might take this election within the first spherical. I imply, really, [the result] was not that unhealthy—Erdoğan misplaced within the first spherical. He doesn’t have a easy majority. That’s one thing crucial. You’ve nearly all of the nation skeptical, at the least, about Erdoğan. However now, the opposition appears to be in panic. That’s what’s saddening.

Loads of observers appeared to share the opposition’s expectation that victory was attainable—even possible. While you noticed the ultimate outcomes are available in, had been you stunned?

The factor is, for the final 20 years, we at all times had this hope that the opposition may win. That is the primary time they had been this near profitable.

It’s actually arduous to ballot for polling corporations. Within the metropolitan cities, Erdoğan is shedding. He retains shedding. Really, in 51 cities, he misplaced votes. Within the larger cities, they don’t want Erdoğan, mainly. In smaller cities and rural areas, he has sturdy assist. Nevertheless it’s the identical sample in all places. I believe it’s tougher for pollsters to go to little tiny villages after they’re making a pattern. They’re often within the larger cities. In fact, they go to smaller cities additionally, however perhaps not the villages. I believe that’s why.

The presidential runoff is quick approaching. Do you suppose the opposition has the capability to return again from this?

They must encourage their voters. One factor we noticed on this election is rising nationalism, particularly amongst youthful voters. I believe what the opposition is attempting to do proper now could be to try to cling on to this extra nationalist narrative. I believe that’s a giant gamble, as a result of after they cling on to this extra nationalist narrative, then they’re going to lose [the ethnic minority] Kurdish vote.

Can the opposition compete with Erdoğan on nationalism?

In Turkey, now, we now have two fronts: Erdoğan and the opposition. They’re each coalitions. In Erdoğan’s coalition, there are Kurds, there are Islamists, and there are nationalists who’re pro-Erdoğan. On the opposite aspect, you have got the identical: You’ve Kurds, you have got nationalists, however they’re towards Erdoğan.

Erdoğan is a character cult. He might be a nationalist at this time, he might be an Islamist tomorrow. In three days, he might be a Communist, let me let you know. That’s what they’re attempting to combat towards. I believe that’s why it’s arduous.

Has the opposition chief, Kılıçdaroğlu, been in a position to compete with Erdoğan’s cult of character?

That’s what some folks criticize. We now have this mayor of Istanbul, [Ekrem Imamoğlu]. He’s a well-known determine, he’s youthful, very energetic, energetic. Some individuals are saying that he ought to run for President moderately than Kılıçdaroğlu. However then others say that Kılıçdaroğlu is a balancing determine, calmer. So now some individuals are saying if the mayor of Istanbul ran, he would have extra possibilities to win.

I believe that might be the case as a result of, if I used to be the opposition, if the mayor of Istanbul ran, I may have used the narrative that Mr. Erdoğan was superb, he constructed the bridges, roads, no matter. However now he’s older. Let’s go for a youthful various, a brand new begin. Why not? They may have used that. However Kılıçdaroğlu is across the identical age as Erdoğan.

The Group for Safety and Co-operation in Europe stated in its preliminary findings following the primary spherical of voting that though the election was largely free and devoid of media irregularities, it was marred by an unlevel enjoying area during which Erdoğan and his allies had “unjustified benefit.”

In fact. They use all of the state [resources]. What Erdoğan did was he began handing out cash, as a result of he can—elevating bureaucrats’ salaries, giving extra pensions. This at all times works.

If Erdoğan wins, the place do you suppose the Turkish opposition goes from right here?

One among Turkey’s benefits is that we now have a really organized opposition. The oldest get together of Turkey, the CHP [Republican People’s Party], is the founding father of Turkey and principal opposition get together. It’s organized. In order that they’re going to resume themselves. Most likely the management goes to vary. It will have political penalties, after all, for those who misplaced. However they’ll renew themselves and they’ll proceed. It’s what it’s. That’s how democracy works. It’s not like a three-day factor. It’s a long-term factor.

And if Erdoğan loses, would he bow out gracefully?

Effectively, he has to. What’s he going to do? He has to. However after all, the mission of the opposition goes to be actually arduous as a result of the financial system is in ruins after which they’re going to must mainly cope with that. Even for those who begin at this time, it’s not going to be okay for the subsequent two years. That’s what analysts venture. It’s going to be actually arduous remaking the establishments, as a result of as you recognize, in all autocratic nations, establishments are deeply broken. It won’t be a simple job for the opposition both.

Has this election modified something by way of how Turkish folks consider their democracy?

Youthful folks have a tendency to not vote for Erdoğan. There may be that change, clearly. Turkey is urbanizing actually quick, so youthful folks need extra democracy, they need one thing else mainly. So there may be that change. It’s going to return.

However let’s see. Possibly with this financial system, if [Erdoğan] doesn’t change his methods, I don’t know the way else he’s going to remain. I believe he’s going to have to vary his financial coverage. In 9 months, we now have native elections.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

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Write to Yasmeen Serhan at [email protected].

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