(Repeats story published late on Tuesday)
* "No" campaigners turn to online music videos
* Mainstream media saturated by pro-government rallies
* Vote being held under post-coup state of emergency
By Mehmet Emin Caliskan
IZMIR, Turkey, April 11 Strolling down the
quayside in Izmir, a liberal bastion on Turkey's Aegean Coast,
Kubilay Mutlu and his Street Orchestra sing of "the naked
emperor" and the collapse of sultanates in a bid to rally "no"
voters ahead of Sunday's historic referendum.
With mainstream media saturated by pro-government
campaigning ahead of the vote on broadening President Tayyip
Erdogan's powers, those opposed to the changes are seeking
alternative channels to get their message across.
"No" supporters have complained of threats and bans from the
authorities, and a report by one non-governmental group said
television coverage of the "yes" campaign had been ten times
more extensive than that of the opposition.
"What we want to stress, despite the pessimistic picture, is
that 'no' is a very important option. Let's use our right to
object," said Mutlu, whose band, made up of teachers and
students from a local university, put their song "One 'no' is
enough" on video-sharing site YouTube.
Sunday's referendum will decide on the biggest change in
Turkey's system of governance since the foundation of the modern
republic almost a century ago, potentially replacing its
parliamentary system with an executive presidency.
Erdogan and his supporters say the change is needed to give
Turkey stronger leadership at a time of turbulence. Opponents
fear increasingly authoritarian rule from a president they cast
as a would-be sultan who brooks little dissent.
The vote is being held under a state of emergency imposed
after a failed military coup nine months ago, meaning there are
"substantive" limitations on freedom of expression and assembly,
according to the Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts at
the Council of Europe.
Turkey has purged more than 113,000 people from the police,
judiciary, military and elsewhere since the coup attempt, and
has closed more than 130 media outlets, raising concerns among
Western allies about deteriorating rights and freedoms.
The leaders of the pro-Kurdish opposition HDP, parliament's
third-largest party, have been jailed over alleged links to
Kurdish militants along with a dozen of its MPs and thousands of
its other members. The HDP opposes the constitutional changes.
"The extremely unfavourable environment for journalism and
the increasingly impoverished and one-sided public debate that
prevail in Turkey at this point question the very possibility of
holding a meaningful, inclusive democratic referendum campaign,"
the Venice Commission said last month.
Turkish officials have said international observers are free
to monitor all aspects of the referendum and have repeatedly
rejected the notion that the media is muzzled, saying that
outlets shut down in the purges were closed on terrorism-related
charges, not for their journalism.
Erdogan was quoted in February as saying there was more
press freedom in Turkey than in many Western countries.
DOMINATING THE AIRWAVES
A stream of music videos exhorting people to vote "no" have
emerged on social media, as opposition politicians complain that
the playing field ahead of the vote is far from level.
In one such video, which has had close to 400,000 views on
YouTube, a women's group appeals to listeners to use "power of
laughter" in a song entitled "ha ha ha, hayir", a play on the
Turkish word for 'no'.
"They have the media, meeting halls, municipalities and
resources in their hands. But stubbornly we try to touch people
on the streets, through social media," Dilara Yucetepe, who was
part of the project, told Reuters.
Another 'no' video draws on imagery from anti-government
demonstrations in 2013, when hundreds of thousands of people
took to the streets in what grew from a protest against the
redevelopment of an Istanbul park into a broad show of defiance.
State broadcaster TRT interviewed Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader
of the main opposition CHP, on Friday evening and was set to
interview a spokesman for the HDP on Tuesday, a development the
party described on its Twitter feed as "seemingly unbelievable".
Such appearances are relatively rare, all but drowned out by
the multiple speeches each day by Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali
Yildirim and others broadcast live on all the major networks.
According to a report by the Unity for Democracy (DIB), an
opposition-affiliated organisation, live television broadcasts
from March 1-20 period dedicated 169 hours to Erdogan, 301.5
hours to the ruling AK Party and 15.5 hours to the nationalist
MHP, which supports the "yes" campaign.
The CHP had 45.5 hours of coverage while the HDP had none,
the report said. A Turkish court last week banned the HDP's "no"
campaign song on the grounds that it contravened the
constitution and fomented hatred.
In a report published on the party's website, CHP lawmaker
Necati Yilmaz said "no" campaigners had faced 143 incidents of
pressure, threats and bans by the end of March.
"While the state's resources and financial power are being
used to boost the 'yes' vote, its legal, administrative and
security forces are used to clamp down on 'no'," he said.
(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Anna