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Turkey’s media watchdog fines 6 digital platforms for LGBTI+ content

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Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), has imposed fines on six streaming platforms, primarily for LGBTI+ content “contrary to societal and cultural values and the Turkish family structure,” the Bianet news website reported.

The fines were imposed on Netflix, Disney+, Prime Video, Mubi, beIN Connect and BluTV.

Netflix was levied an administrative fine for two productions: a movie titled “ANNE+: The Film” and a Spanish teen drama series called “Elite.”

RTÜK said it “evaluated the lack of recognition of gender, sexuality, and relationship boundaries, the construction of an alternative gender-based ideal world, the alteration of the universal family form and the explicit portrayal of intense obscenity scenes, in the movie … as contradictory to the principle of preserving the family.”

The council also stated that Netflix violated the provision in Law No. 6112 on the Establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Their Media Services, which states that “broadcasting services cannot be contrary to the national and spiritual values of society, public morality and the principle of protecting the family” by presenting “Elite.”

The fine imposed on Disney+ was because the fourth episode of season two of the TV series “Love, Victor,” titled “The Sex Cabin,” included scenes that contained behavior that was “disturbing to society and contrary to morals,” according to RTÜK.

The council also fined Prime Video due to a TV series titled “Modern Love,”which was considered “contrary to the spiritual values of society and the principle of protecting the family.”

While RTÜK stated that the explicit scenes in the films “Winter Boy” and “Room in Rome,” available on the Mubi platform, were contrary to broadcasting principles, it added that BluTV’s series titled “The Book of Queer” and the movie “Lost Highway,” aired on beIN Movies Stars, violated the broadcasting principles specified in Law No. 6112.

As a result, the council also decided to impose administrative fines on Mubi, BluTV and beIN Connect at the upper limit.

Meanwhile, RTÜK also fined Virgin Radio for the program “Mesut Süre ile Rabarba” (Walla with Mesut Süre), which allegedly contained immoral statements and discussions about sexuality and obscenity that are unsuitable for children during the time slot when children could be listening.

In addition to the fines, the council also decided to call streaming platforms to Ankara for a meeting in September to discuss broadcasting policies related to sensitive issues such as the Turkish family structure, national and spiritual values and the indivisible integrity of Turkey.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Turkey, but homophobia is widespread and publications or broadcasts including or showing homosexual characters are frequently faced with state censorship or protests.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and officials from his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has its roots in political Islam, frequently attack social media and platforms such as Netflix, claiming that they spread fake news and immorality.

RTÜK is accused of contributing to increasing censorship in the country by imposing punitive and disproportionate sanctions on independent television and radio stations in addition to digital platforms.

Turkey’s new social media law that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2020 tightens control over Internet platforms by requiring companies to respond within 48 hours to requests to remove content. The regulation is feared to be used to silence dissent in Turkey as it provides broad powers that allow authorities to block access to anything they might consider illegal.

Netflix canceled a series with a gay character in 2020 due to pressure from the Turkish government in a move labeled as a new extreme in censorship in the country.

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