The IPI global network today warned that the most recent appointments to the executive board of Turkey’s state-run Radio and Television Corporation (TRT) by President Erdoğan risk a further loss of impartiality and push the public broadcaster to become an absolute state-propaganda outlet.

On July 14, 2021, TRT’s entire executive board was replaced by a presidential decree, which also increased the number of board members from seven to nine (due in part to a decision to split the role of executive board chair and TRT managing director, which was previously held by one person). Most of the newly appointed names are known for their close relations to the government and AKP officials, including the son of the current Minister of Labor and Social Security Vedat Bilgin and pro-government Sabah daily columnist Hilal Kaplan. Kaplan’s columns have been known to spread misleading information or disinformation against government critics, including journalists. The new appointments have created a public outcry due to the members’ perceived affiliations.

TRT was founded in 1964 as an autonomous broadcaster with a mission to deliver the public objective and impartial news. It operates more than 15 TV channels, including ones broadcasting in Kurdish and Arabic. On July 2, 2018, right before the two-year-long State of Emergency expired on July 18, Presidential Decree no. 703 was passed, providing for the appointment of TRT executive board members by the president.

“TRT was once the most respected media institution in Turkey thanks to its high-quality, diverse, and objective news. Unfortunately, its administration has been taken over by the government step-by-step via decrees or changes in its bylaws, which have turned it into an outlet whose primary mission is to spread state propaganda”, IPI Turkey Programme Coordinator Renan Akyavas said.

“We call for the 2018 decree on the appointment of TRT’s administration to be overturned in order to restore the autonomous structure of TRT. It is absolutely essential for TRT to have independently elected board members in order to regain its autonomous and impartial broadcasting policy.”