President Erdogan issues order asking media outlets to “protect Turkish values”

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Turkey’s president has ordered that steps be taken against media content like TV programmes that are deemed contrary to Turkey’s “fundamental values.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said in a circular published in the Official Gazette on Saturday that 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, the circular stated.

Children and youth will be protected from “messages conveyed through certain symbols,” the decision said without elaborating.

Turkey’s media watchdog, the Supreme Council of Radio and Television or RTÜK, already has wide-ranging powers, and can fine media outlets or order temporary blackouts against TV channels for violating Turkish values.

RTÜK has been accused of doing so against outlets that are most critical of the government.

It has also fined channels for erotic or LGBT+ content.

İlhan Taşcı, a member of RTÜK appointed by the opposition, 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.

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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 Kabaş was arrested pending trial for insulting Erdoğan 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 Erdoğan.

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 criticised online for alleged Satanic and paganism-related content.

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