“Turkish TV viewers upset most by hate speech and discrimination on screen” – Today’s Zaman

Photo : Cihan (Source : Today's Zaman)

“Most of the complaints filed at the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK) by viewers in 2011 were against TV hosts who were allegedly involved in hate speech or discriminatory behavior based on religion, language or ethnicity on the screen, a 2011 RTÜK report has shown.

In 2011, TV show hosts and participants received the most complaints from viewers by 17 percent for allegedly engaging in discrimination based on religion, ethnicity or language, followed by programs that are allegedly involved in discrimination by 13 percent, while 11 percent of the complaints were filed due to the cancellation of some TV programs.

TV show hosts such as Müge Anlı received the highest number of complaints due to their “discriminatory” statements on television, leaving complaints filed against some TV series far behind.

The most controversial discriminatory statements were made by Anlı in the aftermath of a powerful earthquake that hit the eastern province of Van last October, which is predominantly Kurdish, when Anlı attempted to link the cause of the quake with the ethnicity of the people in the region. The quake hit at a time when acts of violence perpetrated by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) against security members escalated. Being blind to ethnic divisions, Turkey became mobilized to extend a helping hand to the people of Van where hundreds of people were killed, while thousands of others were left homeless in the quake.

TV show host Anlı, defied the collective sentiment by saying on air: “Police officers, who were targets of little children sent out [by adults] to throw stones at every opportunity, were the first to rush to the disaster scene. … May those hands that threw stones at them be broken. Those who threw stones — kill them on the mountaintops whenever you want to. Let’s set things straight. In difficult times, the police are the best [for the people of the area]. … It is not that simple. Everyone should know their place.”

Anlı’s remarks were met with widespread outrage and anger. In January, the İstanbul Prosecutors’ Office announced that it has not found legal grounds on which to take action against Anlı in an investigation launched against her. Lack of hate crime legislation in Turkey makes prosecutors fall short of legal grounds to investigate individuals like Anlı over their discriminatory statements. Hate speech is a form of expression that spreads and promotes hatred based on intolerance and animosity towards individuals or groups.

Hate speech not only inflicts psychological damage on the victim but also tends to incite hate crime, which can be defined as a criminal offense motivated by prejudice or hostility based on somebody’s ethnicity, national identity, religious beliefs, social status, sexual orientation or disability.

Although such crimes have reached unprecedented levels, they commonly go unpunished.

According to Cengiz Alğan, chairperson of the Association for Social Change’s steering committee, it is a must for Turkey to define in its penal code what constitutes a hate crime and set certain punishments for hate crime offenders.

Speaking to Today’s Zaman in a phone interview, Alğan also said journalists’ associations and media organizations should set their own codes of ethics to prevent those working in the media from engaging in hate crime.

“Journalists and correspondents should be given training to this effect. Every media institution should set fundamental ethics rules,” said Alğan, adding that the BBC’s ethics code could be taken as a model for the Turkish media in order to prevent hate speech on screen.

Habertürk TV’s Duygu Canbaş’s statements about the Van quake were no less offensive than Anlı’s, as she said: “Even though the quake took place in Van, we are in great pain.”

Day time TV shows like that of Anlı’s — a marriage show — received 30 percent all the complaints filed in 2011. They were followed by dramatic TV series, which received 29 percent, commercials with 14 percent, news bulletins with 4 percent, ‘last survivor’ programs with 3 percent and sports programs with 3 percent.

Referring to the public disturbances caused due to hate speech on TV, Cafer Solgun, a Kurdish-Alevi writer and activist, told Today’s Zaman that it is a big shortcoming that Turkey does not have a law on hate crimes and the effects of this shortcoming are felt more strongly every day.

“Although programs starring TV hosts who were involved in hate speech have been cancelled, no other sanctions are imposed on them. And we keep waiting to see which TV host will be the next to use offensive remarks against a certain group in the society,” he said, stressing the urgent need for hate crime legislation in Turkey.

In 2010, Star TV talk show host Mehmet Ali Erbil received harsh reactions from Alevis when he associated them with debauchery and incest on his program, which has since been canceled. He drew the ire of Alevi groups when he made a joke on live TV about “mum söndü” (the candle was blown out) — a phrase used to refer to Alevi religious ceremonies pejoratively and and which suggests participants supposedly turn to debauchery and incest. Star TV decided to discontinue Erbil’s program.

Solgun said civil organizations like the Confrontation with the Past Association, which he heads, are lobbying Parliament for the preparation of a law on hate crime in Turkey. “Although none of the parties in the Parliament has voiced opposition over the need for such a law, none of them have yet taken any action to this effect,” added Solgun.

Controversial statements by sports commentator Ahmet Çakar, also a former referee, andRasim Ozan Kütahyalı about an ongoing match-fixing probe in Turkey during a sports program on Beyaz TV last December triggered complaints against a sports program for the first time, according to RTÜK’s report. RTÜK issued a warning to Beyaz TV following the complaints.

During the program, Çakar and Kütahyalı accused Fenerbahçe President Aziz Yıldırım, who was jailed as part of the rigging probe, of involvement in match-fixing, violating the RTÜK law which says, “Everyone is innocent until proven guilty.””

Source : Today’s Zaman

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