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Observers fear that Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan might be preparing for another round of censorship of the country’s media, now that he has issued a warning to domestic outlets not to show content which he said goes against Turkey’s “core values.”
Erdogan chose to react via the Official Gazette, Reuters reported, and focus his message on the need to “think of the children.” The president called for legal measures to be put in place as a way to protect the country’s culture, and make sure children are not negatively influenced by what he considers “harmful content” in all types of media.
Erdogan stopped short at identifying the content he was referring to, but those are said to mean the kind that undermines Turkey’s national values and disrupts family and social structure. This is interpreted to mean content that might in any way flaunt Erdogan’s ruling party’s Islamic values, including on issues like LGBT, or criticize him personally or his rule.
Whatever the clear policy behind the latest warning may be, it should not be hard to enforce, given that in Turkey – a NATO member who is hopeful of joining the EU – some 90% of the most influential media are either state-owned or allied with the government.
This “consolidation” happened particularly around the time of a failed attempt to dethrone Erdogan in 2016, when he came back with a vengeance, imposing more and more control on the way information was disseminated in that country.
The authorities, for their part, continue to deny that the measures introduced in the wake of the coup have had long-term consequences, including on freedom of religion – something critics would not agree with.
In Turkey, the regulator who exercises oversight and also direct removal of content, i.e., carries out censorship, is RTUK. Some of its activities in the past have been to fine outlets or have them delete content sees as “erotic,” offensive to the president, or referring to LGBT.
The work of journalists has also been criminalized in tens of thousands of cases. Only last week, journalist Sedef Kabas was jailed ahead of her trial for posting a proverb seen as unfavorable to Erdogan’s image.