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07.02.2014 23:15 News >> Leaked Audio Reveals Habertürk Manipulated Opinion Poll

Leaked Audio Reveals Habertürk Manipulated Opinion Poll

A conversation between the editor-in-chief and the top manager of a Turkish daily which was shared on social media has revealed that the daily had manipulated the findings of a 2013 opinion poll. The leaked conversation was posted on Twitter on Thursday evening by an unidentified user, Haramzadeler.

A conversation between the editor-in-chief and the top manager of a Turkish daily which was shared on social media has revealed that the daily had manipulated the findings of a 2013 opinion poll.

The leaked conversation was posted on Twitter on Thursday evening by an unidentified user, Haramzadeler. In the conversation, a voice allegedly belonging to Habertürk Editor-in-Chief Fatih Altaylı is heard telling Fatih Saraç, deputy chairman of the Ciner Media Group, which owns Habertürk, that he will manipulate the results of a poll conducted by the Konsensus Research and Consultancy Company in favor of the governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). “I will take some points from the Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] and undecided voters. I will manipulate [the poll],” the voice says.

The opinion poll, which made its way to the Turkish media in mid-March of 2013, was conducted with the intention of determining whether peace talks initiated by the government with the terrorist Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) to resolve a longstanding Kurdish problem had made any impact on the popularity of parties in Parliament.

According to the poll, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AK Party maintained a 36.8 percent approval rating without the splitting of undecided votes. The Republican People's Party (CHP) received 17.5 percent while the MHP received 11.1 percent and the BDP, 3.6 percent. According to the poll, 12.3 percent of respondents said they were undecided.

Haramzadeler, meaning “sons of thieves” in Turkish, has been uploading voice recordings and documents over the last few weeks, including serious assertions about the alleged involvement of members of the government in embezzlement and corruption.

According to records of another leaked phone conversation, Saraç had called Erdoğan's son Bilal after his conversation with Altaylı and discussed the findings of the Konsensus poll with him. According to the records, Saraç told Bilal Erdoğan that the approval ratings for the AK Party, the MHP and the BDP in the poll would be manipulated.

The claims over manipulation of the opinion poll follow a heated debate over Prime Minister Erdoğan's alleged interference in Habertürk TV channel's reporting by instructing Saraç to immediately remove a news ticker. In a voice recording posted on YouTube earlier this week, Erdoğan gave instructions to Saraç to stop a news ticker in which MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli called on President Abdullah Gül to intervene and reduce the tension during the Gezi Park protests, which rocked the country at the beginning of last summer.

On Friday, Altaylı denied claims of manipulation. He said the findings of the Konsensus survey were published by his daily with no interference or manipulation. In his column, which he titled “Do no pay heed to montage or recordings; the survey was published as it was,” the editor-in-chief said the recording featuring his voice was altered.

“The truth is: I conveyed a concern that a reduction in the number of votes for the BDP as suggested in the opinion poll may sabotage the peace process [between the government and the PKK]. I said I would discuss the issue with the manager of the polling company and ask him to review the findings. I also said it would not be possible for us to manipulate the findings of the poll. I discussed the issue with Konsensus manager Murat Sarı and he said he trusts the findings and we [Habertürk] published the poll as it was,” Altaylı wrote.

According to Altaylı, the altered voice recording is aimed at drawing his newspaper into a “war in which Habertürk declines to become a party.” “We will render those attempts ineffective and we will maintain our policy to remain impartial,” he stated.

ARABAŞLIK Harsh responses from MHP, CHP

The MHP and the CHP have harshly criticized claims of manipulation of the Konsensus opinion poll.

MHP Chairman Devlet Bahçeli, in messages posted on Twitter, said the Turkish media is not independent. “The media is supposed to be impartial and independent but it has turned into a slave and a remote-controlled toy,” he stated, adding, “Those who turn a deaf ear to the voice of their conscience for their own interests lack humanitarian values and virtues.”

The party's parliamentary group deputy chairman, Yusuf Halaçoğlu, said the MHP will no longer believe in news reported by Habertürk and that its officials and members will not join programs hosted by the channel.

MHP Isparta deputy Süleyman Nevzat Korkmaz defined Habertürk as a “disgrace to the Turkish press” and a “symbol of censorship,” condemning the newspaper and its management for manipulating the findings of the survey for its own interests.

News reports on Friday also suggested that the MHP and the CHP will no longer work with Konsensus.

CHP Gaziantep deputy Ali Serindağ called a press conference and said the manipulation of the findings was meant to “distort the national will.” “Turkey is running at full speed toward becoming a closed and authoritarian regime,” he added. (Cihan/Today's Zaman)



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