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Culture, media associations in Germany condemn defamatory Turkish TV series about Kavala

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Six culture and media associations in Germany have jointly condemned a Turkish TV series that presents a “discrediting and demeaning” portrayal of jailed philanthropist Osman Kavala in line with the narrative of Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, local media reported on Thursday.

Kavala, who has been behind bars since Oct. 18, 2017, despite a 2019 European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruling that found his detention was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender, was sentenced to aggravated life in April 2022 on charges of instigating the anti-government Gezi Park protests of 2013.

The demonstrations were a response to the government’s attempt to destroy one of the few green spaces left in İstanbul, which quickly turned into a nationwide protest against the authoritarian policies of then-prime minister and current president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The controversial digital platform series, titled “Metamorfoz” (Metamorphosis), which recently started airing on public broadcaster Turkish Radio and Television Corporation’s (TRT) new digital platform “Tabii,” is believed to revolve around Kavala.

The character Teoman Bayramlı, contrived to resemble Kavala, takes over his father’s company after his death and then leaks secret information concerning Turkey to an American agent in the first episode of the series.

Just like in the series, Kavala also returned to İstanbul from New York, where he was studying for a doctoral degree, and took over his family’s business affairs after the sudden death of his father, Mehmet Kavala, in 1982.

According to Turkish media reports, six culture and media associations in Germany – Turkey-Germany Cultural Forum, PEN International, PEN Centre Germany, PEN Berlin, The Academy of Arts and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) – on Wednesday stated that they are “deeply concerned” about the broadcast of the series.

The associations described the TV series as another “alarming” step by the AKP government that “crosses the boundaries of human and legal principles.”

Reminding that TRT, which also reaches a significant number of Turkish-speaking people in Germany, has a responsibility to promote truth, objectivity and the protection of human rights, the associations said the broadcast of the series constitutes a “violation of journalistic ethics and respect for the fundamental rights of a prisoner.”

The associations appealed to the European Commission, the Federal Government, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and all relevant authorities and institutions to take appropriate action and express their concerns about the development, while calling on other civil society organizations and the international community to continue advocating for the release of Kavala and all political prisoners in Turkey.

Earlier this week, Kavala also described the series as a “character assassination project” in a written statement, pointing out that it resorts to the method of distorting real events and through conspiracy theories seeks to create the perception that he is guilty.

The series’ screenwriter, Mustafa Burak Doğu, is known for “Diriliş: Ertuğrul,” a historical fiction with a nationalistic narrative about 13th-century Turks, often described as a propaganda tool spreading implicit references in support of the Turkish government.

Turkey’s failure to implement the ECtHR judgment in the case of philanthropist Kavala led to the Council of Europe launching infringement proceedings against Turkey in February 2022 due to its refusal to release him. It marked only the second instance of such a procedure being initiated against a member state.

The CoE’s Committee of Ministers, responsible for overseeing the implementation of judgments by the ECtHR, earlier this month stated that they had decided to consider what further measures are required in the event that the philanthropist has not been released by the committee’s 1,475th meeting in September.

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