“Who has a smartphone?” Muharrem Ince, the presidential nominee of Turkey’s main opposition party, asked the crowd during a recent rally in Denizli. “Now, you all start broadcasting,” he roared. “There is the government media, but there is also the people’s media.” Ince’s call for social media streaming of his rally was not just an effort to reach out to a wider audience, but also a protest. Ahead of Turkey’s critical presidential and parliamentary polls on June 24, opposition parties face an unprecedented blackout by mainstream television channels, almost all of which are now in pro-government hands. Although Ince and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) still manage to get some coverage, others like the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are virtually banished from the screens, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is an omnipresent figure.
Opposition parties and their supporters have increasingly turned to social media, which some now call “the penguin repellent” — a reference to the mass anti-government protests in spring 2013, when one of Turkey’s main news channels ignored the eruption of unrest at Istanbul’s Gezi Park and aired a documentary about penguins instead.
Tezcan Durna, a scholar of political communication, sees the “penguin-repellent movement” as a form of political resistance. “It is another way for opposition voters to resist the oppression and persecution they experience,” Durna told Al-Monitor. “Ince is basically telling Erdogan, ‘If you have your media, which you bought out with money, I have my own movement, which has sprung up spontaneously and I am part of it.’ This is Ince’s way of resisting the media’s denial of coverage.”
Full Article: Turkey’s opposition battles media banishment ahead of polls.