TurkeyAugust 18 2022, 15:15 pm

US Branch of Turkish Public Broadcaster Falsely Claimed to Act Independently of Turkish Government

Nordic Mon­i­tor report­ed in April that in dis­clo­sures filed under the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA), the US office of Turkey’s pub­lic broad­cast­er TRT false­ly claimed it acts inde­pen­dent­ly of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. Accord­ing to the report:

April 20, 2022 In dis­clo­sures filed under the For­eign Agent Reg­is­tra­tion Act (FARA), Turkey’s pub­lic broadcaster’s Wash­ing­ton office, oper­at­ing under the Turk­ish Radio and Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion, mis­char­ac­ter­ized its ties to the AKP and the office of Pres­i­dent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, claim­ing that it acts inde­pen­dent­ly of the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. […] In the FARA fil­ing made by Yürek­li on March 12, 2020, TRT Washington’s cor­po­ra­tion claimed it was nei­ther direct­ed nor con­trolled by a for­eign gov­ern­ment or polit­i­cal par­ty even though it acknowl­edged that it was entire­ly financed from Turkey and super­vised by the Erdoğan gov­ern­ment.  Yürek­li also tried to dis­tance TRT from direct gov­ern­ment fund­ing, say­ing the funds that come from Turkey are col­lect­ed from tax­pay­ers through var­i­ous schemes and claimed “TRT does not receive any funds from a for­eign gov­ern­ment or a for­eign polit­i­cal party.”

Read the rest here.

The report notes that in 2020 alone, TRT received 1,2 bil­lion Turk­ish lira from a new gov­ern­ment scheme, an increase of over 2,000% from a decade ago. Last March, the Glob­al Influ­ence Oper­a­tions Report report­ed that TRT activ­i­ty reports said the com­pa­ny had a bud­get of 7.2 bil­lion lira (about 1 bil­lion dol­lars) for 2017–2019. Accord­ing to data com­piled by Open Secrets, the US branch of TRT (Turk­ish Radio Tele­vi­sion Corp) received at least $2,3 mil­lion from TRT between 2020–2022.

The Nordic Mon­i­tor report also says that while in its FARA fil­ing, TRT claimed that it “oper­ates as an impar­tial pub­lic eco­nom­ic enter­prise,” the media company’s board of direc­tors is appoint­ed by the gov­ern­ment and includes most­ly Erdoğan loyalists:

The com­po­si­tion of the TRT board of direc­tors tells a dif­fer­ent tale than the one offered by the network’s Wash­ing­ton bureau to FARA offi­cials. It is nei­ther an impar­tial board nor a body inde­pen­dent of the gov­ern­ment. In July 2021 Pres­i­dent Erdoğan appoint­ed Hilal Kaplan, one of the chief pro­pa­gan­dists of the regime, as a mem­ber of the TRT board. […] Oth­er new­ly appoint­ed mem­bers have sim­i­lar pro­files, and all were hand­picked to oper­ate accord­ing to the Erdoğan government’s poli­cies. Oğuz Gök­su, a staff mem­ber in the Pres­i­den­tial Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Direc­torate; the directorate’s Media Rela­tions Coor­di­na­tor Müc­ahid Eker; Asso­ciate Pro­fes­sor Vey­sel Kurt, a researcher at the intel­li­gence-linked think tank the Foun­da­tion for Polit­i­cal, Eco­nom­ic and Social Research (SETA); the pro-gov­ern­ment Eng­lish-lan­guage news­pa­per Dai­ly Sabah’s Edi­to­r­i­al Coor­di­na­tor Meryem İlayda Atlas; and Labor and Social Secu­ri­ty Min­is­ter Vedat Bilgin’s son Oğuzhan Bil­gin were named as new mem­bers as well.

The Turk­ish Radio and Tele­vi­sion Cor­po­ra­tion (TRT) is the nation­al pub­lic broad­cast­er of Turkey, fund­ed by the Turk­ish gov­ern­ment. Turkey has crit­i­cized the chan­nel for its clear pro-gov­ern­ment bias and for pro­vid­ing lit­tle air­time for oppo­si­tion par­ties, even dur­ing elec­tion cam­paigns. TRT offers online news ser­vices in Turk­ish and 36 oth­er lan­guages, includ­ing French, Ger­man, and Span­ish. While its inter­na­tion­al Eng­lish-lan­guage chan­nel TRT World has rebrand­ed itself to join the ranks of BBC and Al Jazeera, it has been crit­i­cized for dis­sem­i­nat­ing con­tent pri­mar­i­ly aimed at sway­ing the per­cep­tions of an inter­na­tion­al audi­ence in favor of the Erdoğan government’s domes­tic and for­eign pol­i­cy objectives.


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