Turkey state TV blacklists songs, sparking censorship row


Ankara (AFP)

Turkey's state broadcaster on Thursday 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 programme 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.