ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has ordered that steps be taken against media like TV programs that are deemed contrary to Turkey’s “fundamental values.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a circular posted Saturday on the Official Gazette, said the decision aims to eliminate the harmful effects of television programs with foreign content that have been adapted in Turkey and to protect Turkish culture.
All precautions would be taken against productions that negatively affect the family, children and youth, through Turkish laws and the constitution. Children and youth will be protected from “messages conveyed through certain symbols,” the decision stated, without elaborating.
Turkey’s media watchdog, the Supreme Council of Radio and Television, already has wide-ranging powers, and can fine media or order temporary blackouts for television channels that are mostly critical of the government for violating Turkish values. It has also fined channels for erotic or LGBT content.
Ilhan Tasci, a member of the media watchdog from the main opposition party, called the move “the censorship circular” and said it violates the constitution that promises to protect press freedom.
The majority of media companies in Turkey are already owned by businesses close to the conservative and nationalist government and closely follow government lines.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey at 153 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index of 2021. At least 34 media employees are currently behind bars, according to Turkey’s Journalists Union.
Last week, well-known journalist Sedef Kabas was arrested pending trial for insulting Erdogan, after citing a proverb on Tele 1 television and social media referring to an ox. Tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been prosecuted for allegedly insulting Erdogan.
The circular follows the launch of Fox TV’s Turkish adaptation of the international show “The Masked Singer,” where celebrities perform in costume to hide their identities. The show has been criticized online for alleged Satanic and pagan content.
Elsewhere in the region, Netflix’s first Arabic movie has sparked intense debate in Egypt and other Middle East countries, with critics denouncing it as a threat to family and religious values that encourages homosexuality.
Others have rallied to the film’s defense. They say detractors are in denial about what happens behind closed doors in real life and say that those who don’t like the movie titled “Ashab Wala A’azz,” (“No Dearer Friends”) can simply not subscribe to Netflix.