Turkey TV blacklists songs, sparking censorship row
ISTANBUL: A Turkish court yesterday handed the MP niece of the jailed leader of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Abdullah Ocalan, a two- and-a-half-year jail term on charges of terror propaganda. Dilek Ocalan has served in parliament since June 2015 elections as an MP for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). But the party, the second largest opposition faction in parliament, has been battered since the failed 2016 coup bid by arrests of its MPs and officials, including its former top leadership. Dilek Ocalan was handed the sentence by a court in the southeastern region of Sanliurfa, which she represents in parliament, on charges of making propaganda for the PKK, the Dogan news agency said.
The charges relate to her February 2016 participation in a funeral for a PKK militant killed in a clash with the Turkish security forces, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. Dilek Ocalan’s lawyer was present in court for the verdict but the MP is not currently under arrest. The party said it could not give further details on her status. Her uncle Abdullah Ocalan founded the PKK and spearheaded the group in its insurgency against the Turkish state which began in 1984 and has left tens of thousands dead. He was detained in 1999 in a Hollywood-style operation by Turkish security forces in Kenya after many years on the run and sentenced to death.
But he escaped the gallows when Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004 as part of its bid to join the European Union and his term commuted to life imprisonment. Ocalan is currently serving out the remaining years of his life on the heavily fortified island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara off Istanbul. Since the resurgence of PKK violence in 2015, he has been deprived of visits and largely cut off from the outside world. Ocalan’s brother Mehmet last visited him in September 2016, the first family visit allowed since October 2014. Former party leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag are among nine HDP MPs currently in jail on charges of links to the PKK, which they deny.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state broadcaster yesterday faced accusations of imposing censorship reminiscent of a military coup after admitting it had banned over 200 songs from being played on air. State broadcaster TRT said that 208 songs had been blacklisted in a 2016 move for promoting the consumption of tobacco or alcohol, setting a bad example to children or promoting “terror propaganda”. TRT published the information on its Twitter account in response to a question by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) MP Atila Sertel.
The list of tracks blacklisted by TRT includes Turkish and Kurdish songs and some of Turkish pop music’s famous artists like Demet Akalin, Sila and Bengu. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag rejected accusations of censorship, saying it was normal practice and lashing out at those who he said had misrepresented the channel’s actions. “It is very immoral to present something to the public that TRT does ever year-fulfilling its legal duties-as if it were an illegal form of censorship,” said Bozdag, who is also government spokesman. The channel said on Wednesday that it was forced to adhere to rules applicable to all broadcasters and insisted “there is no question of TRT banning a singer.”
But Sertel said the move was reminiscent of the mood after the 1980 military coup, when songs deemed inappropriate by the ruling junta were pulled from the air. “TRT prepared a special program in 2013 for songs that ‘could not be broadcast’ in the coup period. Well, what is it going to do for today’s banned singers?” Sertel said. Critics have regularly accused the Islamic-rooted ruling party under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of cracking down on artistic expression and imposing an increasingly conservative morality. The government counters that many measures-such as a ban on alcohol and tobacco advertising and blurring out alcohol consumption on TV-are in line with steps taken by other countries.- Agencies