ISTANBUL - Turkey's state-run broadcaster has been penalised for favouring President Tayyip Erdogan in its coverage of the country's first popular vote for head of state, the national election board said on Wednesday.
The election was a major step for Erdogan in cementing his power after 10 years as prime minister and extending the authority of the presidency that until his accession had been largely a ceremonial position.
TRT, funded by the Turkish tax payer, was ordered by the broadcasting regulator to replace 11 of its forthcoming programs with documentaries as a punitive measure, and to broadcast the reason why it was being punished.
The regulator imposed the measures after a complaint from the High Elections Board (YSK) about breaches of its election coverage rules. TRT was not available for comment.
The YSK said TRT had shown 5 hours 26 minutes of Erdogan's speeches between Aug. 6-8, a critical period for voters ahead of the Aug. 10 election, while broadcasting none of his rivals, main opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and pro-Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas.
Erdogan, who was accused by rivals of using public resources for his campaign, won the elections with almost 52 percent of the vote. It is the first time that TRT has been fined in its 45-year history, local media reports said.