CHP Report on the Turkish Government’s Culture and Arts Policies – 2014 : Oppression and Censorship

CHP Cultur Arts Platform

The AKP government,  counteracts  freedom of expression, with the new regulations and practices, in our country almost every day. The right to demonstrate is also being destroyed in the same way. The freedom of the Press has become limited as it is not in any period. The AKP’s policies aimed at destroying the fundamental rights and freedoms, continues increasingly in the field of culture and arts. The Government’s repressive attitude and censorship continued in the field of culture and arts in a  widespread manner in 2014.  The AKP is trying to ban and prevent any kind of cultural and artistic studies that do not comply with their own political and cultural value. The application of censorship to documentaries, movies and theaters is gradually increasing. The AKP also implements censorship on reading classical literary works, that they are on the contrary to her perspective of “national value” .

The Government, on the other hand,  with the draft law called TÜSAK (Turkish Art Institution) which was prepared clandestinely,   tries to exterminate  arts institutions under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, that are proven themselves with their qualified works.  The main institutions are The State Theatre, The State Opera and Ballet and the General Directorate of Fine Arts. The government intends to constitute an 11-member committee, which all the members were appointed by themselves, instead of institutions that have legal entity and transfer all kind of authority  to this political committee about the decisions related to arts and culture.

The TÜSAK, is a clear indication of the government’s claim to place culture and arts under guardianship,  as well as the judiciary system. The government conducts public aid  to cinema, theater, literary works  and etc. both in great secrecy and prevent an aid to artists that they thought as opponents. The CHP  (The Republican Peoples’ Party) demands to terminate all kinds of applications restricting arts and  narrowing the field of art. The CHP defends that art and artists should be supported by the public for the entrenchment of democracy and the spread of culture and creative thinking. The CHP defends that the support given to art and artists, should not cause state patronage and  should allow the artist to produce freely.

The AKP government continues  opposite applications, despite all the warnings of the world of art and art-lovers.  Melih Gökçek, Ankara Metropolitan Mayor , who is from The AKP, said “I spit into this kind of art” for a statute in the nineties and this expression has almost become AKP’s art policy. For example, the “Humanity Monument” commissioned by Kars Municipality to sculptor Mehmet Aksoy, was  demolished in the 2011 by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, by calling the statute as “freak”.  Another example is, the Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM), which became active as the fourth-largest performing arts center in the world in 1969 and became Istanbul’s symbol, has “been kept closed due to renovations” since 2008, clearly reveals the AKP’s cultural and artistic hostility.

As being the CHP’s Cultural and Art Platform, which was established in September  2014, we have decided to prepare a report on censorship of the AKP Government  and share it with the public.  In this context, we have published repression and censorship practices of 2014 with the title “DO NOT WRITE”,”DO NOT READ”, “DO NOT TALK”.

In this report, 135 cultural events were appeared affected by the repression and censorship applied in the year 2014. We are presenting a summary of the report published in English below.

Ercan Karakaş

CHP Vice President, Cultural and Art Platform

Former Minister of Culture


Report on the Turkısh Government’s Culture and Arts Polıcıes – 2014

 By the AKP Government:

1  –       32 censorship and prohibition were applied, to films, documentaries and theater plays.

For example; During the 51th International Antalya Golden Orange Film Festival, a documentary film, which themed Gezi Park Resistance, made by Reyan Tuvi and called “Until the Earth Be The Face of Love “was announced to be presented at the  “National Documentary Contest”,  was removed from the program by the festival management because of containing expressions contrary to Article 125 and Article 299 of the Turkish Panel Code.

The presentation of documentary called “Ali – Free World in My Dreams”, which was made in remembrance of Ali Ismail Korkmaz, who was beaten and killed during the Gezi Park Resistance in Eskisehir, was prohibited  by the Governor’s Office during his birthday, in his hometown Hatay.

The Prime Ministry Promotion Fund did not give support  to the 17th “International Ankara Jazz Festival” which is the unique jazz festival of Ankara, because the Prime Minister Erdoğan did not find suitable to give a financial support to this kind of activity.

During the 3rd Short Film Competition awards ceremony which was held by Hak-İş Labour Confederation, the winner Suat Eroğlu, the producer of the film called “Natality”, who criticized the government and dedicated his film to the miners who lost their lives in Soma, was subjected to verbal criticism of  Prime Minister Davutoğlu and Bulent Arinc. He also attacked by a person who was a member of Hak-İş Labour Confederation.

2 –        22 illegal dismissals, appointments and forced to resign incidents occured at art institutions.

Prof. Dr. Rengim Gökmen, the famous conductor and composer of the State Opera and Ballet, discharged from his position, which he has been appointed in 2007,  because of  voicing the drawbacks  against the draft TÜSAK law.

Mustafa Kurt, who was assigned as attorney to the General Directorate of State Theaters, because of  the dismissal  of Lemi Bilgin on  May 31, 2013, resigned from his position  in reaction to censorship applied to two theater plays called “Sun Is Even Large During Sunset” which was written and directed by Kazım Akşar and “I Gave up, But the Theater” which was written by Yeton Neziray, on the ground where there are “abusive and erotic expressions” in the original text. 

Kurt and 12 regional director stated that the draft TÜSAK law submitted has an  unacceptable content.  Like the other art institutions (The State Opera and Ballet and the General Directorate of Fine Arts) and actually eliminates the General Directorate of State Theaters. fact. They said that this application is an unacceptable.

3  –       18 radio, TV, newspaper censorship and prohibition was made.

One of the television channels, Gün TV was given a warning because of showing the film “Pianist”, which was made and directed by Roman Polanski and got 3 Oscars, 1 Cannes film award and 1 BAFTA award, contains “violence”. The film tells the story of a Jewist pianist living in Nazi-occupied Poland during the World War II.

A broadcast ban was imposed on the news related to the Parliament Commission of Inquiry, which was formed in order to investigate the alleges about 4 former AKP ministers (Zafer Çağlayan, Muammer Güler, Egemen Bağıs and Erdoğan Bayraktar), until the commission  was over in December 27.

4  –       17 internet and social media blockouts was imposed.

For example, the access to 6 websites was denied because of publishing audio recordings related to Erdogan and his family . Recently,  three social networking sites  were closed without a court order under this blockout.

The twitter account of  Celil Sağır, Editor Assistant of Today’s Zaman, was blocked due to his sharings in a manner contrary to the Number 5651 Internet Act by Istanbul 5th  Magistrates’ Court.

The article about ITU Rector Dr. Mehmet Karaca, which was written by Ezgi Başaran, web site writer of Radikal newspaper, was blocked by the new internet law, which delegated extraordinary powers to the Telecommunications Communication Presidency (TIB).

5  –       16 censorship and prohibition imposed in the other fields of arts and literature.

An investigation started about 5 Turkish teachers teaching at  Kumport Middle School in Istanbul Bahçelievler, because of advising Aziz Nesin’s book “Kids These Days Are Present ” to their students . Previously, in the same district, the  book called “Samarkand and Brinker” has been subjected to investigation.

The Ministry of Culture, removed the musical pieces of the famous composer and pianist Fazil Say, from the program of the Presidential Symphony Orchestra (CSO).

The 15th “Antalya Piano Festival”, which has been realizing since 2000, started with the absence of its founder and art director. Fazıl Say was not assigned any duty during the festival by AKP Antalya Mayor Menderes Türel.

6  –       16 attacks took place on the cultural heritage and the arts.

Akün and Şinasi Theaters, which were the property of Emek İnşaat Inc. which is affiliated to the Ministry of Labour and Social Security and operating under the responsibility of the State Theaters, were sold to a private company for establishing a hotel, through a secret tender.  

The General Directorate for Foundations was sued for eviction against to the General Directorate of State Theaters  for the evacuation of Küçük Theater and Oda Theater in Ulus, where the General Directorate of authority is also placed in.

The Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM), which was evacuated for the purpose of renovation in 2008 and although was decided to be renovated  by  2010 Istanbul European Capital of Culture Agency and the necessary budget was provided,   Atatürk Cultural Center (AKM), which is the most important art venue of İstanbul is closed for 6 years  and  the venue have been left to deterioration.

7  –       In 9 events there has been debates about the transparency and equitability about the government’s arts and  culture subsidies.

In 2014 The  Ministry of Culture and Tourism “Within the Scope of the Regulation on Promotion of Literary Works” has given financial support (463.000 TL) 40 writers, but the members of the Selection Committee and the benefitted people were not cleared up.

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism Movie Support Board, decided to give record-breaking financial support (1 million 750 thousand TL) to the film “Çanakkale Is Impassable” which was produced by Özhan Eren, who also made AKP’s jingle during the 2011 elections.

The numerous theaters including a well-established ones such as Dostlar Theater, Ortaoyuncular, Theater Kare and Ankara Art Theater did not get “support aid” from the Ministry Of Culture and Tourism last year by the justification of attending Gezi Park Resistance, and they were deprived from getting financial support  also this year. The unknown groups, companies and different business groups got financial support from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

8 –        5 cultural and arts people were punished, were shown as target and subjected to verbal attacks

Immediately before the State Turkish Folk Music Choir concert at the Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, with the leadership of Arts & Culture Union, artists have set up a signature stand against the draft TÜSAK law. However, this stand has been asked to be blocked by the security forces with the instructions of  Ömer Faruk BELVİRANLI, Assistant General Manager of Fine Arts and clash have been occurred between security forces and the artists.

During an essay contest awards ceremony, Prime Minister Erdoğan  said “Artist straw are making a call for rebellion for new death experiences” about the artists tells their opinions about the Gezi Park Resistance on a video  which was prepared for the 1st. anniversary of the resistance.

As a summary, in the year 2014, censorship, prohibition and supression were imposed aiming at directly to 135 cultural  and artistic works by the AKP government.

About CHP EU Representation

The CHP was founded on 9 September 1923, about one and half month before the proclamation of the Republic of Turkey. The first President of modern Turkey’s oldest party was M. Kemal Atatürk. Today CHP is a social-democratic party, member of the Socialist International and associate member of the Socialist Group at the European Parliament. The scope of the CHP bureau in Brussels is not limited to the bilateral framework of Turkey's EU accession process. Issues such as the information society, energy policies, social development, climate change, international trade and security are among the different focus areas. The EU-Turkey relations are about integration and need multiple, plural and horizontal channels of communication. The CHP supports and promotes Turkey's EU membership process also by being more present and active in Brussels The CHP's Representative to the EU is Ms Kader Sevinç who previously worked as an MEP advisor at the European Parliament and in the private sector.
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