Over the past few years, there has been a lot of talk about media censorship and how it affects people. Different countries have different laws which state what is and what isn’t allowed to be shown on television or looked at on the internet.
It’s up to governments now to decide which content can be viewed freely and, on the other hand, what should be banned.
However, some countries take all this a step too far and enforce media censorship which robs people of a huge amount of content. Currently, the people of China and Turkey are going through some rigorous bans and media censorship laws.
Shows that are “too entertaining” are now banned in China
The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China will occur on October 1st of this year. In preparation for the anniversary, some new censorship laws were announced. In the months leading up to this event, China has banned broadcasting any historical dramas it considered to be “too entertaining”.
This ban will last for 100 days, and during this time, television channels will be forced to follow strict guidelines. In addition, a list of 86 ‘patriotic’ shows has been put together, and these will be the only content shown during those 100 days.
The state National Radio and Television Administration published a notice that explained which content was permitted and which wasn’t. Not only have certain historical dramas been banned, but the notice also announced a ban on idol dramas, which typically follow the lives of celebrities.
“TV stations should put emphasis on choosing shows… and not broadcast any period or ‘idol dramas’ that are too entertaining,” the notice stated. “[They must also] make sure the shows broadcast are appropriate for the whole environment during this period”.
So, what will people in China be able to watch?
The aforementioned list of the 86 approved shows contains programs which will focus only on the “different stages of the Chinese people’s road to independence, prosperity, and strength”.
Media censorship has always been an issue in China, and it’s become even a bigger concern during the previous year under President Xi Jinping, when some popular films and TV shows have been banned for various reasons.
The first content to be banned this year was a popular historical TV drama titled The Story of Yanxi Palace. The show focused on the negative aspects of the Qing dynasty, such as the intrigue and backstabbing. It was taken off the air in January, but not before being streamed more than 15 billion times.
The Beijing Daily newspaper criticized the show, saying it promoted a luxurious and hedonistic lifestyle. But The Story of Yanxi Palace wasn’t the only imperial drama which was criticized, as Ruyi’s Royal Love in the Palace and Scarlet Heart were also bashed.
As for idol dramas, they have been criticized by state media for allegedly having a negative influence on society and being materialistic.
It appears that media censorship laws extend beyond television, as the song Do You Hear the People Sing? from the musical Les Miserables also appears to have been banned. According to the South China Morning Post, this song has been removed from QQ Music and other major Chinese music-streaming websites.
However, it seems like these media censorship laws are having a different impact on the people than what the government had planned. Namely, during a recent pro-democracy protest in Hong Kong, people took to the streets and chanted the now removed song.
Journalism and culture under threat by the Turkish government as the internet censorship law extends
New regulations have been introduced to Turkey’s censorship board which will regulate and monitor internet broadcasts. This news is very concerning to the people of Turkey, as it signifies intrusion of freedom and self-expression.
While some claim that these regulations were put in place to censor cultural works which are obscene or offensive, others see this as an attempt of the Turkish government to take control over the internet.
A series of scandals that started it all
Just a few years ago, Turkey was a completely different country than it is today. There was a certain level of democracy and freedom.
However, everything started to change in December 2013, after corruption scandals related to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) surfaced. Incriminating evidence such as shady phone conversations leaked, appearing on the internet.
These leaks were blamed on the Gülen religious movement, as they had been in a power struggle with the AKP, which is also believed to have been the reason of the failed coup attempt that took place in July 2016. After this event, the country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan gained supreme control and the country’s politics was redefined.
However, it was hard for the Turkish government to recover from some scandals. One of the biggest ones occurred in 2014, when it was revealed that Erdoğan was hiding an enormous amount of cash at home, and his son managed to incriminate him for this crime over the telephone while trying to dispose of the money.
This scandal also implicated four ministers, which lead to their forced resignations. The entire ordeal caused nationwide protests which completely shook the AKP. It seemed like they wouldn’t be able to recover from this blow.
However, the ruling party managed to fight back by blaming the corruption investigation and leaks on the Gülenists’ “parallel state”. Consequently, the AKP won the election and Turkish media censorship laws were about to change.
The censorship bill
In 2013, this incident and social media played a huge role in protests, as people believed that the internet needed to be under stricter control by the government. As a result, an omnibus bill was passed in 2014, which outlined the government’s mass control over the internet.
This bill was only an addition to some regulations regarding the internet from 2007. Censorship had been a real issue in Turkey for a while, as certain websites had been banned for extended periods of time. This included YouTube, Kurdish sites, and even the personal website of an evolutionary biologist.
Many activists see the bill from 2014 as the end of internet freedom in Turkey. This bill made it possible for the administration to block access to websites and pages without even a court hearing. In 2018 alone, almost 250,000 websites were blocked.
Furthermore, the legislation could cause problems for people who are broadcasting original content over the internet. If someone wants to do this, they need to acquire a license from Turkey’s censoring body.
The decision of what is appropriate for online broadcasting will be determined by the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). They will also have the authority to block any sites that fail to obtain the license.
Who will be affected the most?
The press is undoubtedly going to be one of the main victims. Even before the bill was passed, Turkish media outlets, including both print and television, had already been facing extreme restrictions, and this is just another restriction they are forced to obey.
Before this, some online Turkish TV news platforms such as Medyascope were able to broadcast news somewhat freely. Now, they would need to apply for a broadcasting license from the RTÜK. If the government rules that they shouldn’t get the license, they will be blocked from the internet.
Netflix and other on-demand internet streaming services will also be affected by this law. An Islamist daily Karar columnist Akif Beki bashed this website for streaming shows which promoted homosexuality. Even though Beki claimed that the censorship law had nothing to do with the streaming website as the column had been written a year after the bill was passed, the connection had already been made.
Another columnist, İsmail Kılıçarslan, has stated that he fully supported the law and if anything, he even believed that it came too late. Kılıçarslan deemed the law necessary in order to protect the Turks from the “razor-sharp samurai sword” of indecent on-demand TV shows.
Finally, it’s important to address how this will all affect all Turks who value independent media. While their television broadcasts were heavily censored, the people were able to watch content on on-demand sites like BluTV and Puhu TV. And since RTÜK is unlikely to give platforms like these a license, it seems this is the end for internet freedom of expression in Turkey.
Because of this bill, countless artists and content creators won’t have a way to freely share their creations with the world, and the result of it all will be bleak. People’s freedom of speech will be taken away from them and it seems like this bill will be hard to overturn any time soon.