5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-04-06

1 – 31 March and aftermath – Two members of the far-left group DHKP/C (Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front) took prosecutor Mehmet Kıraz hostage, issuing a series of demands related to the Berkin Elvan case that Kıraz was investigating. (Elvan was the 14-year-old boy who was shot in the face with a gas canister by an as yet unidentified police officer during the Gezi Park protests and who died in a coma 9 months later.) After 6 hours of negotiations, a confrontation took place and both DHKP/C members and Kıraz were killed. During and after the crisis the Turkish government issued a media blackout regarding reporting on it. Though both pro-government and non-government-aligned outlets (the later coming from a variety of ideological perspectives but distinguished by the fact that they sometimes criticize the government) had carried images of the hostage crisis, the following day many of the non-aligned media were banned from attending Kıraz’s funeral and subsequently had charges filed against them for “propagandizing on behalf of a terrorist organization.” Some of these media organizations, including the Doğan Group, the country’s largest, have objected to the ban and charges, though Doğan also took the unusual step of engaging in self-criticism, an action that has been critiqued by some. This ban on images of the crisis even extended to some degree to foreigners, as an Egyptian-British blogger had a tweet regarding the incident blocked based on the ruling of a Turkish court. In the days to follow it came out that the hostage takers did have family ties to the DHKP/C and that Kıraz had been actively investigating the Elvan case, perhaps even moving towards finding the police officer(s) involved.

On the same day, the entire country suffered a massive blackout that has yet to be fully explained, though some hypotheses have been put forth. Twitter user Fuat Avni has received attention for tweets suggesting that the blackout was a trial run for a series of similar blackouts that will take place during the 7 June election, as well as tweets from January, noting that Turkey’s intelligence agency (MIT) had infiltrated DHKP/C and planned to reactive the group.

On 1 April, two assailants attacked a police station in Istanbul and one was killed while, elsewhere in the city, an armed man broke into the AK-Party headquarters and hung a modified Turkish flag. Both President Erdoğan and Prime Minister Davutoğlu have attempted to turn the series of incidents to political advantage, Erdoğan noting that Turkey needs to build 3 rather than 2 nuclear power plants and saying that the police, who have recently been granted unprecedented powers, should take over for private security firms, and Davutoğlu promising that no unauthorized street protests would be permitted and also suggesting that the DHKP/C attack could be linked to foreign powers.

And, on April 6th, Turkey blocked access country-wide to Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube to prevent the hostage photos, as reported by Hürriyet Daily News:

Turkish authorities have blocked access to Twitter, YouTube and Facebook over the publication of photos published on the three social media platforms showing a prosecutor who was taken hostage by militants in Istanbul last week. Tayfun Acarer, the head of the Information and Communications Technologies Authority (BTK), told daily Hürriyet that the ban on Facebook had been lifted after it rapidly complied with the court ruling.

Penguen kapak - 2015-04-022 – Erdoğan insults roundup – Turkey has charted new territory in the crackdown on social media by giving a journalist a suspended prison sentence for “liking” an anti-Erdoğan post on Facebook.

Radikal reports that a trial has been opened against ÖDP Tokat Regional Authority Önder Konuk, who was taken into custody because he called Erdoğan “lan” (something close to “dude”) in an angry tweet after the death of Özgecan Aslan. His tweet, which was only visible to friends, translates to, “Why don’t you declare a time of mourning dude!” He explained the tweet by saying he was angry to see Turkey declare a day of mourning for the death of the Saudi King, but not for Aslan. He may face up to 7 years in prison. Konuk is just one among many who have been charged for angry Tweets regarding Erdoğan’s actions in the wake of Aslan’s death.

The latest cover of the satirical cartoon magazine Penguen references the recent prison sentence against two of its cartoonists for insulting Erdoğan, and notes “we will continue to draw.”

Finally, as Today’s Zaman reports:

A 17-year-old high school student in the province of Konya is set to appear before a court in June and will face between one and four years of prison after he was charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ; the boy is reportedly a friend of a 16- year-old who was recently arrested on the same charge.

3 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman both issued reports on a “Twitter battle” that took place between AK-Party supporters and Gülen supporters in recent days. According to Hürriyet Daily News:

Thousands of social media users who either supported or opposed the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) engaged in a “spamming” war, which started April 3 and continued for at least two days, leading Twitter to suspend the accounts of many users who had hundreds of thousands of followers.

4 – The Kabataş Gezi Park story may get less press in the future, as Hürriyet Daily News notes:

A Turkish court banned accesss to stories ran by eight websites on Zehra Develioğlu , a headscarved woman who claimed in June 2013 that she and her baby were the victims of an assault by a group of people in the Kabataş district of Istanbul during the Gezi Park protests, upon a request by the woman.

In related news, the journalist who “broke” the original story, Elif Çakır, had her Twitter account hacked, with the hacker admitting to wrongdoing on her behalf.

5 – On a lighter note, as Hürriyet Daily News reports,

Hollywood star Julianne Moore may have won the 2015 Best Actress Oscar, but Turkish officials have rejected a bid to make her Turkey’s tourism face by citing her “poor acting.” The Culture and Tourism Ministry disapproved of the acclaimed actress’ performance in a film promoting tourism in Turkey and demanded a reshoot. However, Moore declined the ministry’s offer, ultimately leading to the cancellation of the project, daily Hürriyet has learned.

The story also received satirical commentary in The Onion.

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5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-30

1 – The International Press Institute (IPI) issued a special report on Turkey regarding freedom of expression and democracy, noting that,

Turkey has seen increased pressure on media in recent years, part of a drift toward authoritarianism that has led to a pervasive climate of self-censorship and one of the most troubling press freedom pictures in Europe.

2 – A nationalist retelling of the Gallipoli battle, Son Mektup (Final Letter), released in honor of the 100th anniversary of the battle, has garnered some controversy as Kemalist groups question why Mustafal Kemal Atatürk, a national hero and by many accounts a key figure of the Gallipoli defense, was left out of the film. ODA TV, an independent and often anti-AK-Party news site, asks where the money for such a project came from and notes that the steel, energy, and shipping industry firm İÇDAŞ was a major sponsor. Radikal, meanwhile, notes that the Ministry of National Education has paved the way for the film to be shown to millions of school children across the country. Emine Yıldırım from Today’s Zaman provides a cinematic critique of the film in English.

3 – The Kabataş fiasco described in previous entries (here, here, and here) has taken a new turn, as Hürriyet columnist İsmet Berkan, who claimed via Twitter to have seen footage of the attack, thereby lending weight to a story which has since been widely discredited, issued an apology to his readers at the prompting of Hürriyet’s reader representative, Faruk Bildirici. The story was covered widely, including in Hürriyet, and Today’s Zaman (English). In response, AKP Adiyaman MP Mehmet Metiner says that he trusted Gülenist police directors who told him that they had evidence of the Kabataş harassment and that’s why he had announced that the AKP had such evidence. He says that he doesn’t understand why İsmet Berkan felt compelled to lie about such things during Gezi nor why he feels compelled to confess it now.

4 – Crackdowns on perceived insults and critiques of the government continue to increase in the lead-up to the June parliamentary elections. Today’s Zaman provides a general summary, noting, that

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has filed complaints on charges of “ insult ing” him against a total of 236 people in the 227 days since he was elected president in the election held on Aug. 10, 2014.

In another article, the same paper notes that,

The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office is seeking a prison sentence of two years for Gonca Vuslateri , an actress who works in theater and television, on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , who has so far filed more than 220 complaints against people for allegedly insulting him since he was elected president in August of last year.

One of the cases gathering the most attention is that of cartoonists Aydoğan and Baruter. As Hürriyet Daily News notes,

Two cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen have been jailed to 11 months in prison, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they were convicted of including a hidden gesture “insulting” Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Cartoonists Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan were sued for the Aug. 21, 2014, cover of the magazine, which satirized Erdoğan’s election as Turkey’s president. In the drawing, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam, to mark his inauguration.

According to Radikal, Penguen has released a statement regarding the 11 month prison sentence, noting that they are saddened that a trial can even take place against a cartoonist and that this is bad for the whole country, especially given the fact that there is no insult on the cover in question. They state that they will continue to draw cartoons and that they hope this trial is the final example of attempt to intimidate free expression.

Other charges filed include the case of students in Trabzon, as covered by Today’s Zaman:

Thirty-seven students and teachers have recently appeared in court on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan , while criminal complaints have been filed against 11 others accused of breaking Law No. 2911 on Public Assemblies and Demonstrations while attending a protest in Trabzon. Education Personnel Union (Eğitim-Sen) Trabzon branch head Muhammet Ikinci was among those who have been summoned to testify before a court on charges of breaking the law, which regulates the actions allowed in demonstrations and protests. Reacting to the decision, Ikinci said, “This intolerance to people in a country where the government is responsible for guaranteeing fundamental freedoms and rights, including the expression of all ideas, gives us a clue about the want sort of regime the government is becoming.”

Erdoğan is not the only one being “protected” from such insults. Today’s Zaman details stories of journalist Ergun Babahan being indicted for alleged insults to Erdoğan’s son, Bilal, and Prime Minister Davutoğlu suing the paper’s own journalists, Bülent Keneş and Celil Sağır, over allegedly insulting Tweets. The PM apparently also managed to block access to the tweets. Even the state run news service, Anadolu Agency, is apparently now to be shielded from critique, as Hürriyet Daily News reports:

An investigation has been launched into a total of 58 well-known figures in Turkey on the grounds that they criticized the state-run Anadolu Agency on Twitter, daily Cumhuriyet has reported. Top journalists, including daily Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar, Hürriyet columnist Melis Alphan and Taraf columnist Emre Uslu are among the suspects, while the former general manager of the agency, Kemal Öztürk, and Vice-General Director Ebubekir Şahin are the complainants. The suspects have been accused of “provoking the people to hate and enmity, as well as defamation, slander and intimidation” for their posts on social media.

5 – In related news, Hürriyet Daily News reports on a new law that could affect social media users:

Social media users who share content that has been subject to a legal complaint in Turkey will be punished, according an omnibus bill currently being debated in parliament, daily Radikal has reported. The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) will be able to decide for the removal or blocking of Internet content based on an article about the “protection of national security and public order” in the omnibus bill, and users who share such content will also be punished. On March 20, parliament approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill that gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours. The approval came just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-23

1 – Insults to Erdoğan weekly roundup – a now regular feature of the Turkish news-scape is the count of how many journalists, cartoonists, students, activists or others are currently being tried, fined, or jailed for various forms of insult to President Erdoğan. Examples this week include …

Today’s Zaman regarding a student in Izmir:

A 21-year-old university student is facing the prospect of up to four-and-a-half years in prison for posts on Twitter that are alleged to have insulted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he was prime minister.

Hürriyet Daily News and Diken on cartoonists, with a link to the “problem” image at the latter:

Two Turkish cartoonists face up to two years in jail on charges of “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, over a satirical piece on free speech in which they allegedly included a hidden offensive gesture. Bahadır Baruter and Özer Aydoğan, cartoonists for the popular satirical weekly Penguen, have been sued by Erdoğan for the Aug. 21, 2014 cover of the magazine. In the picture, Erdoğan is seen asking whether officials at the new presidential palace in Ankara have prepared “any journalists to slaughter,” referring to ritual sacrifice in Islam.

Hürriyet Daily News on the sentencing of a journalist in Adana and on the investigation of others in the same city:

A journalist in southern Turkey has been sentenced to a five-month suspended prison sentence, while the houses of two more journalists from the same city have been raided by police, all for “insulting” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on their social media accounts. Mine Bekiroğlu, a 28-year-old local journalist from Adana, was sentenced to a five-month prison sentence by Adana 6th Criminal Court of First Instance on March 19, Doğan News Agency reported.

2 – Today’s Zaman reports on the YSK (Supreme election board) banning an AK-Party Nevruz/Nerwoz ad:

Turkey’s Supreme Election Board (YSK) has banned a television ad prepared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) for the Nevruz festival because of the use of the Turkish flag and religious symbols, a news report said on Sunday. The three-minute ad was released last week to mark the Nevruz festival — a now officially recognized holiday widely celebrated in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern region of Turkey — to send a message of unity amid efforts as part of a settlement process to resolve the decades-old Kurdish issue through talks.

The AK-Party is clearly aware that such use of symbols is illegal, as they had an ad banned for similar reasons almost exactly one year ago, in the run-up to the March 2014 municipal elections. More about that ad and its zombie-like imagery can be found at endtimescafe.

3 – Ileri Haber and T24 report that he Beyoğlu Zabita raided a screening of the 13th annual Filmmor Women’s Film Festival taking place in the Rampa Kafe, saying that the cafe didn’t have a license for screening. Festival coordinator Melek Özman noted that the festival had received all the necessary permissions from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The filmgoers resisted the police for about an hour, until organizers told the police they had called officials in the municipality and parliament, at which point the police finally relented.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman report on a bill approved by parliament that increases governmental oversight of the internet. From Hürriyet Daily News:

Parliament has approved a key article of the contentious omnibus bill which gives power to the prime minister and other ministers to shut down websites within four hours, just six months after a similar bill was overturned by the Constitutional Court. Parliament approved 13 more articles of the omnibus bill late March 12. A key article stipulates that ministers will have the power to order the removal or blocking of an online publication for “defending the right to live, securing property, ensuring national security and public order, preventing crime or protecting public health.” The Telecommunications Directorate (TIB) could enforce the request of the ministry, as a blanket ban of the website if deemed necessary, within a maximum of four hours.

The same paper also prints an interview with scholar Aslı Tunç on the importance of social media in Turkey and the government’s strong efforts to curtail it.

5 – Censorship round-up – Hürriyet Daily News reports on members of the US Senate pressuring Secretary of State John Kerry to act on press freedom in Turkey; Today’s Zaman details a new report by Transparency International that says 86 percent of journalists in Turkey believe self-censorship is common; and columnist Melis Alphan notes the long history of censorship in cinema and art related to Kurdish identity.

Concerts of the Cinematic World – an interview with Azize Tan

The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) Istanbul Film Festival (IFF), Turkey’s biggest both in terms of number of films shown and number of viewers reached, is back for its 34th round from the 4th to the 19th of April, featuring some 204 films by 222 directors from 62 countries. With over 20 categories ranging from horror to children’s films to cinema of the Balkans, as well as numerous competitions and awards, including best domestic feature and documentary, international feature, and best film on the theme of human rights, the festival has something for everyone and, according to director Azize Tan, that’s precisely the goal. I had a chance to speak with her last fall, during the lead up to IFF’s sister festival, Film Ekimi (Film October – FE), in a discussion ranging from the history of the festivals and their evolving role to the challenges facing the film industry in Turkey.

IFFLOGOJC – Can you tell me a bit about the history of the two festivals, how they came about, and what distinct roles they have?

AT – Well, IKSV (Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts) was founded in 1973 by businessmen before there was even a Ministry of Culture. They were organizing a big festival in the summer, quite similar to the one in Edinburgh now, featuring mostly classical music concerts, as well as some theater and dance. In 1982, after the military coup, they decided to screen films at that festival too. It started with just six films, but there was a great interest because cinema was practically dead in Turkey at that time. The cinematheques had been shut down with the coup in 1980 and almost no films were being produced or released, so that was the only place where people could go and see what was happening in world film.

The demand was so great that they decided to make it a separate festival. They pushed it to March, and they gave it the name FilmDays. It was like that for almost 10 years, and then it shifted to become International Istanbul Film Festival, as they added an international and national competition. On the 30th anniversary, we decided to drop the title International, since everybody knew the festival was international, so now it’s only IFF.

If IFF is a festival for the film world, FE is a festival just for the audience.

FilmEkimi started 13 years ago and, just as IFF marks the coming of spring, FE announces arrival of autumn. In fact, this year we did our press conference on the 23rd of September, which is the first day of autumn, and there was a storm and the weather changed in a single day. FE is similar to the gala screenings of the big films at IFF. It’s kind of a “best of” fest, and it’s the right season to do an event like that because summer is quite slow for film in Turkey. October is the time when people start to go back to cinema.

If IFF is a festival for the film world, FE is a festival just for the audience. We don’t have any guests, competitions, or industry events. Take a look at the program and if you’re interested in independent or auteur cinema, you’ll find that you can catch up with most of the films that you want to see within the season. FE is organized to get films to viewers while they’re still fresh. If we start the cinema season with Sundance in January and Berlin in February, we get many of those films in IFF. But with films that come to Cannes (May), Venice (September), and Toronto (September), it would be a long time to wait for April to see those films, and many will have been distributed digitally or on pay TV by that point.

FE also allows us to follow the films and the directors we’re interested in. So if there’s a director that we’re following throughout his career at IFF, and there’s a new film that can’t wait for April, we include it in FE. That’s how it works. For us it’s a kind of relief, because we don’t lose those films, and it seems to be working very well. In fact, we started our sales on Saturday the 27th after two days advance sales for our loyal members, and by the end of the second day, which is the fourth day in total of sales, we had sold 75% of the tickets. We even had to open 15 additional screenings and extend the festival by a day on either side. We expect an audience of 50,000 people in Istanbul alone.

JC – Do you show any Turkish films at FE?

AT – Not in the Istanbul program. We do a big showcase of Turkish cinema at IFF, including a number of competitions, and even if a Turkish film has already been released we prefer to leave it until April in order to showcase it for our foreign guests. But FE also has a traveling selection, which varies from city to city, and we do show Turkish films in each edition. For example, the 2014 National Competition Golden Tulip winner I’m Not Him is going to be shown at the traveling festival in Urfa, Diyarbakir, and Trabzon, because the film won’t be released in those cities, but we won’t show it in Istanbul, Ankara, or Izmir because they’ve all scheduled it for release.

JC – So it sounds like you’re very careful on the matter of film distribution. Could you say more about the role of festivals as they relate to that?

… film festivals are becoming an alternative distribution channel for film

AT – When we started to take the festival on tour it was a collaboration between Sarajevo Film Festival, Sofia Film Festival, Transylvania Film Festival, and ourselves, and we still continue this collaboration. We generally go to cities where there’s a big university and a young audience and our goal is to promote these films. We hold screenings in real movie theaters, not alternative venues, and we project digital, with good subtitles, so the quality is quite high. The project has been very successful and our audience has been increasing steadily each year. We have a very loyal audience, and it’s kind of proved that film festivals are becoming an alternative distribution channel for film. On the other hand, this highlights a problem with the current distribution system as well, because during the normal public releases this audience kind of gets lost.

JC – That’s an interesting point about alternative distribution models. Do you coordinate with Başka Sinema (Another Cinema – a new distribution model in Turkey for independent and arthouse cinema)?

AT – Yes, we coordinate with them on a number of fronts. We’re all from a generation who grew up with IFF, and it had a big impact on all of our lives. What they are creating is quite parallel to the legacy of IFF in many senses—their special sections and theme nights, for example. In the case of FE, nearly 90% of the films there have a Turkish distributor, and in many cases that is Başka Sinema. In order to defend and sustain independent cinema, we have to collaborate with other parties, otherwise we wouldn’t stand a chance.

The Karaca Cinema in Izmir is a good example. It’s in the city center and the owner decided to shut it down. But FE had been holding the festival there for the last four years and we had seen the potential of bringing quality films to that place—in fact, there was a huge demand from Izmir. So we suggested that they collaborate with Başka Sinema and now they’ve got an agreement for the small screen there. We still use the cinema for the festival and now we also promote Başka Sinema with commercials throughout the festival. So far it’s a collaboration that’s helping a cinema to survive.

AZIZE TANJC – This highlights another aspect of the role of festivals—their effects on the local economy.

AT – Yes, when you have a successful festival you can have a major effect. IFF lasts 16 days and includes three weekends, FE is 10 days, and many cinemas that we collaborate with, especially the smaller ones in Beyoğlu, rely heavily on this income to make it through the year. And it’s not only the cinemas that benefit. The face of Istiklal Street changes during the festivals. Different people come here and even the shop owners on the street ask us ‘why don’t you organize a festival every month?’ Our audiences come, they sit, they eat, they spend money. They buy books—well, there are no more book stores left on Istiklal, that’s another story—but I mean we create an economy.

JC – Last year we corresponded when IFF chose to screen Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier) after it was banned by the ratings commission. There were concerns about censorship hitting the festivals in a new way at that point because Cinema Directorate (a subsidiary of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism) head Cem Erkul had written to festival organizers saying that all films would have to go through the ratings procedure, which would mark a major shift in the way festivals worked. Did IFF face any fallout from the choice to show Nymphomaniac or local films without a certificate?

AT – The system has to be completely redefined, and instead of a certificate, the existing rating system should be put in effect. The cinema law drafted three years ago will, I believe, help regulate the system and alleviate certain problems, as soon as it is ratified.

JC – 2014 is, by some accounts, the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema. What do you see as the brightest spots and biggest challenges as cinema moves forward?

Before MP3 downloads, concerts were not so big. But now with the downloads it’s like albums are dead and the big thing is the concert. I think we are witnessing a similar thing with the film festivals. Now festivals are becoming the big event.

AT – You know we’ve been lucky in the sense that our films did pretty well at the festivals. Winning the Golden Palm (Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Kış Uykusu – Winter Sleep at Cannes) after 34 years was a big success in itself. And then we had Song of My Mother (Erol Mintaş – Kurdish and Turkish titles: Klama dayîka min / Annemin Şarkısı) which won the Sarajevo film festival. And then Sivas (Kaan Müjdeci) at Venice, being a first film selected to the main competition. So in that sense it went pretty well.

On the other hand I think we still have a lot to do for Turkish cinema. For example, the main problem is that we’ve been waiting three years for this new cinema law to pass. It’s ready, it’s waiting at parliament, so I think the most urgent thing to do is to pass it. There are new regulations, the system is changing, the industry is changing, and we definitely need a new law.

At the same time, the festivals and general distribution will have to redefine themselves. In a way it’s like the music industry. Before MP3 downloads, concerts were not so big. But now with the downloads it’s like albums are dead and the big thing is the concert. I think we are witnessing a similar thing with the film festivals. Now festivals are becoming the big event. So you can come together, see the films together, talk about the films, see the directors, ask them questions, and it’s become something popular. But then we have to redefine regular release in some way.

poster_50x70_kopru-01We have to sit down and think about what we are doing and having a film institution at the center of it all would be very useful. I mean everybody is trying to work for the promotion of Turkish cinema, like the festivals, the producers’ association, but I think we need a center to organize all these efforts. Otherwise there are too many people working on the same things and there is no continuity.

JC – Something apart from the Cinema Directorate?

AT – I mean a structure similar to the establishments in Europe. Someplace to organize everything. The Ministry of Culture is working with different parties for different tasks, but since there is no continuity there is often no follow-up. This year they did good things—Venice proved to b a wonderful opportunity to make our presence felt celebrating the 100th anniversary of Turkish cinema, and we did something big at Cannes, with the stands and everything—but I think for the upcoming years we have to improve. However, these and similar efforts need to be expanded into the whole year. International bonds, once built, must be sustained. The international presence and representation of Turkey must be continuous. A new cinema law, and a film institution to provide continuity are the most urgent, and then we must tackle the problem of distribution with regards to changing windows, like everywhere else.

JC – And what is the primary problem of distribution?

… we know that 60% of the Turkish box office comes from Turkish films, but it’s only five films that make this number. What happens to the other 65 films?

AT – I mean we are talking about successful Turkish cinema. We’ve got about 70 films produced per year, but we don’t know how many of them are going to be released. Or, for example, we know that 60% of the Turkish box office comes from Turkish films, but it’s only five films that make this number. What happens to the other 65 films? We have to talk more about that. We should have a quota for the distribution of Turkish films. And maybe there are too many films being produced in Turkey, that’s something that we have to discuss as well. It’s not only a problem for Turkey either. It’s all of Europe, with the existing funding system. In fact there are 700 films being produced in Europe per year. Is there an audience for so many films? Apparently not.

Maybe the focus should be to produce less films, but make them more appealing to the audience in a way. I think for the whole world, not just for Turkey, I think to reach and connect with potential audiences is the first priority.

This piece published simultaneously on EndTimesCafe.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-16

1 – Hürriyet Daily News and Today’s Zaman

Turkey’s media watchdog will be given the authority to fine TV channels that violate election broadcast limitations, according to a new omnibus bill presented to parliament, de-authorizing the High Election Board (YSK). The media watchdog, the Supreme Board of Radio and Television (RTÜK), will take over the authority to issue warnings and fines to broadcasters for election violations, instead of the YSK, which currently holds the authority, if the bill is passed by parliament. Opposition parties have reacted against the bill, claiming that it is a move to protect pro-government broadcasters.

GIRGIR kapak 2015-03-11 - RTE directing Kabatas shoot2 – Today’s Zaman and others – follow further developments in the Kabataş Gezi Park story, as pro-Government paper Sabah publishes a mock image alongside claims (also in English) that the lack of evidence in the case is actually evidence, and that all of the alleged crimes took place in a 52-second gap in security footage. Satirical cartoon magazine Gırgır includes a cover showing Erdoğan directing a shoot of the events. From Today’s Zaman:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the pro-government media have revived discredited claims that a woman wearing a headscarf was attacked by a group of Gezi Park protesters, as government mouthpiece the Sabah daily published an illustration on Wednesday linked to debunked claims, even though police have confirmed that the video footage showing the incident does not exist. There were claims that a physical assault was sustained by the woman, whose family has close ties to Erdoğan, during the nationwide anti-government Gezi Park protests in 2013 in front of Istanbul’s Kabataş docks, where nearly 100 men allegedly harassed the woman and her baby. These allegations gave rise to the withdrawal of support by certain segments of society from the Gezi protests.

3 – BGN News and Today’s Zaman report on a piece in Taraf related to a major shift in government surveillance – from BGN:

A new Big Brother-esque surveillance center in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s TRY 1.4 billion (USD 540 million) presidential palace has been completed. The center will allow the president to monitor all 77 million citizens at all times, with its 143 different screens providing access to all MOBESE (law enforcement CCTV) cameras in all 81 municipalities, all images taken by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) as well as all security camera footage. Able to directly receive information from the systems belonging to the Disaster and Emergency Management Authority (AFAD), the National Intelligence Agency (MIT), the police and the gendarmerie, the center will also be able to project a target’s personal details and information instantaneously.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish police on March 13 detained three people accused of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top officials on Twitter, after raiding their homes. The raids were the latest in a string of actions against critics of Erdoğan on Twitter, as activists express growing alarm over the limits on freedom of expression in Turkey.

5 – Istanbul Film Festival, sponsored by the The Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV), released its program for this year’s festival, to run from April 4th to 19th.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-09

1 – Bianet – has released a summary report on the state of journalism in Turkey over the last three years.

The polarization of media and intolerance to different opinions in Turkey soared in the year of 2014 with the incidents of Local Elections on March 30, Presidential Elections on August 10, the resolution process with Kurds and operations against Fethullah Gülen Movement. What the polarizations meant was to choosing between self-censorship or layoffs for journalists, and violation to right to information for readers. The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government prioritized in 2014 its “security-oriented” policies to state of law and basic rights and freedoms despite all criticism.

2 – Today’s Zaman, Radikal, and Zaytung (a satirical news site) – follow the ongoing interest in the Kabataş attack story from Gezi Park

Amid growing debate regarding a fabricated incident of harassment against a woman with a headscarf in Istanbul’s Kabataş neighborhood that apparently never took place, 14 columnists from five pro-government newspapers ran the same headline for their Thursday columns to back the government’s narrative without including any evidence but instead recounting the history of discrimination against the headscarf. During the Gezi Park protests that erupted during the summer of 2013, pro-government journalists reported that a headscarved woman named Zehra Develioğlu was attacked by Gezi protesters on a street in Kabataş on June 1. Although a large part of society was galvanized to turn against the Gezi protesters due to the incident — especially after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time, said dozens of half-naked men had attacked the young woman and even urinated on her — footage from nearby security cameras discovered months later showed no evidence that such an attack had even taken place.

3 – Evrensel – notes that On the 4th of March, HDP co-president Selahattin Demirtaş was scheduled to appear on the Cüneyt Özdemir’s 5N1K program on Kanal D at 11:15pm, but the show was rescheduled at the last minute until 1:00am and didn’t actually air until 1:45am. Critics took to Twitter to suggest this was due to the AKP government’s intervention.

4 – Hürriyet Daily News and AlJazeera Turk

A court has ordered President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to pay 10,000 Turkish Liras to the artist responsible for a sculpture in the northeastern province of Kars, which he had demanded the removal of and described as a “freak.” During a Jan. 8, 2011 visit to Kars, then Prime Minister Erdoğan slammed the city’s new 35-meter-tall “Monument to Humanity,” created by sculptor Mehmet Aksoy. An Istanbul court ruled on March 3 for Erdoğan to pay 10,000 liras in moral indemnities to Aksoy, partially accepting the 100,000 liras case Aksoy had filed against Erdoğan.

5 – Medyafaresi – reports that the Turkish dizi (TV series) Son (meaning “the end”), by production firm Ay Yapım, will become the first drama format from Turkey adapted for US television when shooting starts on 27 March in Chicago. The US version of the series will be called Runner.

5 Yorumsuz – 5 Without Comment – 2015-03-02

1 – Hürriyet Daily News (and Radikal)

Weeks after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s “16 Turkish warriors” hit international headlines, several candidates have launched Ottoman-themed campaigns to be nominated for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the upcoming parliamentary elections.

2 – Today’s Zaman

US-based watchdog Freedom House has criticized Turkey’s controversial security package, which grants extensive powers to police officers and provincial governors, saying that the passing of the bill in Parliament is a move to undermine democracy in Turkey. Freedom House, which describes itself as “an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world,” responded to the passage of the first 10 articles, issuing a statement late Monday. The director of Freedom House’s Eurasia programs, Susan Corke, said, “It is no exaggeration to say that the future of Turkish democracy hangs in the balance with this law.”

3 – Hürriyet Daily News

Model and former Miss Turkey Merve Büyüksaraç is facing up to two years in prison for social media posts that prosecutors claim “insult” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The indictment has been completed as a part of an investigation into Büyüksaraç’s post, in which the prosecutor Umut Tepe demanded that she be sentenced to one to two years in prison. The Criminal Court of First Instance in Istanbul will now decide whether to initiate proceedings. Büyüksaraç, an industrial designer and writer who was crowned Miss Turkey in 2006, was briefly detained and questioned on Jan. 14 for sharing a satirical poem on her Instagram account.

4 – Today’s Zaman

Auditors from the Finance Ministry carried out a raid at the Gezici Research Company’s office in Istanbul following a poll the company released showing votes for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) decreasing below 40 percent. According to the Cihan news agency, auditors went to the Gezici office in Istanbul’s Beşiktaş district to examine the company’s tax documents on Tuesday morning. The auditors checked up on details regarding the company’s address, number of employees and the administrative structure of the company, then left the office after taking notes.

5 – Gerçek Gündem – Fidel Okan, who once served as lawyer for Star Gazetesi journalist Elif Çakır, gives his version of how the Kabataş story became so exaggerated. Cakır has faced renewed criticism for promoting a story during the Gezi Park protests of 2013 that Zehra Develioğlu, who wears a headscarf, was attacked by a group of protestors. Then Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, picked up on the story and repeated it frequently to demonize the protestors, but there is little evidence that the event actually took place. According to Okan, some protestors exchanged words with the woman and she was upset by this, as well as by the fact that her husband was late to pick her up. She exaggerated her account when he finally arrived to get her and he, in turn, exaggerated it when recounting it to his father, who happened to be an AKP-affiliated leader of a local municipality. This official, in turn, exaggerated the story once again and it was increasingly exaggerated as it moved up the AKP chain of command, to the point that it became a group of 70, half-naked, leather-clad assailants who overturned a baby stroller and urinated on the woman. Okan says that Erdoğan probably believed the story the whole time.