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Population: 86 million
Internet penetration: 85%
17th June 2024

After winning a narrow victory in last year’s presidential elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began his new term with renewed vigour and continued tight control over the media. But with the country still split, the president suffered a setback in March 2024 local elections, the biggest defeat for the ruling party since 2002.

The general election campaign in 2023 took place in an atmosphere of intense sorrow and heightened grievances about the devastating February earthquakes. Described as ‘competitive, but still limited’ by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s election observation team, the 2023 elections were characterised by campaign coverage in the mainstream media that mostly favoured the ruling parties and candidates.1 Government-friendly brands such as CNN Türk, which is owned by Demirören Media and A Haber, owned by the Turkuvaz Media Group, as well as the public broadcaster, TRT, allocated disproportionately greater airtime to the incumbents despite impartiality being required by the Turkish constitution.

Meanwhile the High Council for Broadcasting (RTÜK), whose legal obligations include securing freedom of expression and media pluralism, handed out heavy fines to a number of TV channels that included critical voices. NOW TV (formerly FOX) was amongst those fined for a live election broadcast in which a journalist said that ‘democracy does not solely consist of the ballot box’. HalkTV was fined 5% of its monthly ad revenue for carrying comments questioning the legitimacy of the election outcome from a ‘political standpoint’ as opposed to a legal one. Another station was fined 3% of its monthly ad revenue for discussing allegations of ballot irregularities.2

To the widespread surprise of many, however, local elections in March 2024 marked the largest electoral defeat for President Erdoğan and his ruling party since 2002. Winning not only Turkey’s largest cities including Istanbul, the capital Ankara, and Izmir, but also some of the rural districts that were long considered as government strongholds, the main opposition party, Republican People’s Party, also secured the most votes nationwide. Many analysts agree that these results, almost a year after Erdoğan’s presidential victory, reflect widespread frustration with the skyrocketing inflation rates, near 70% in April 2024.

Turkey also celebrated the Republic’s 100th anniversary in 2023, which coincided with a major controversy involving the Disney Plus (Disney+) platform, resulting in a wave of subscriber boycotts. Originally set to be released on 29 October, Republic Day, it was announced that the six-episode series on the country’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, would be pulled from the platform. Amidst allegations that Disney’s decision was linked to lobbying by the Armenian diaspora, the RTÜK started an investigation into the platform for disrespecting ‘the most important social value’ of the Republic.3

In December 2023, RTÜK was back in the headlines when it issued a fine and a two-episode ban on NOW TV’s drama series Kızıl Goncalar (Crimson Buds) for its critical depiction of pious characters in the show in a way that violates the society’s national and spiritual values and general morality.

The longstanding media censorship climate in Turkey also impacts freedom of discussion and debate in social media and video networks. Over the last decade, a number of famous journalists have gained popularity by carving out a niche on platforms such as YouTube, with less oversight or interference from the government. But now a number of legal amendments, such as the Disinformation Bill, pose greater uncertainty and risk to journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens alike. This year’s Digital News Report data show that 44% report sharing news online, with previous data indicating that the majority feel they have to be careful when talking about politics with others online.

In January 2024, the state-run Press Bulletin Authority (BİK) accepted a regulation that includes online news sites among the media where official announcements and advertisements will be published. The Turkish Journalists Association have opposed this in part because of concerns that the official announcement requirement being removed when a website is blocked would constitute a serious risk to the freedom of the press and expression in a country where blocking decisions are frequently issued.4

Nic Newman
Senior Research Associate, Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

Changing media

Television remains the most influential news medium in Turkey along with online news services of the leading national publishers. Printed newspapers, by contrast, are in sharp decline, with weekly reach less than half what it was in 2015.


Trust in news overall



Trust in news in general has remained stable at 35%. While most brands that still carry critical voices of the government have seen a slight increase in their trust scores this year, the public broadcaster (TRT), which has been criticised for its election coverage in favour of the incumbent, dropped 3pp.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 31.6

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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