Turkish streaming service fined and ordered to delete TV show with trans woman

Çağla Akalın sits on a plush red couch

Turkey’s media watchdog has issued a fine against a streaming service for airing an interview with trans actor and model Çağla Akalın.

The Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the state agency which regulates and sanctions broadcasts, reprimanded Exxen for showing a programme where Akalın spoke about her life.

Akalın’s guest spot on the eleventh episode of talk show Katarsis, which originally aired 12 March, had been stripped from the platform completely at the behest of RTÜK.

The agency, which once fined a TV channel for airing a “homosexual” P!nk music video, claimed that her appearance on the show would set a “negative example for the viewers”, according to Ahval.

In an interview with Oda TV, Akalın, who is the country’s first openly trans model, explained that after fans pointed out that the show had vanished from Exxen, she rang up the show’s host Görkem Çınar to ask why.

“Çınar told me that he just found out about the episode being removed and that he was saddened about it,” she said.

“In the statement made, it was said that the platform was fined by RTÜK for the Katarsis broadcast, where I was a guest, and requested the removal of the broadcast.”

The 30-year-old star of Köpek trashed claims that her interview with Çınar was indecent or offensive enough to prompt punitive measures from the increasingly conservative  RTÜK.

“If my past pains and tears deserve punishment, so be it,” she said. “My life is not one that would lead people astray or set an example.

“I didn’t try to impose my life on anyone. My life consists of things that would be lessons for the people, but we are not even allowed to say these anymore.”

The RTÜK, controlled by the ruling right-wing Justice and Development Party, otherwise known as the AK Parti, has increasingly used fines as a club to compel broadcasters to not air LGBT+ content at all.

In the past it has penalised and censored TV shows such as Fox’s 9-1-1 and Netflix’s The Protector for showing same-sex couples kissing. Such content, it says, goes against the agency’s fickle morality guidelines.

A Turkish TV channel that aired The Normal Heart, the 2014 Ryan Murphy film that explored the AIDS crisis of 1980s New York, was slapped with a hefty fine by RTÜK. It said the movie was “damaging society’s sense of shame and forcing the limits of public morality”.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s state advertising watchdog launched its own chilling clampdown by claiming rainbows “negatively affect children’s mental health” – so rainbow merchandise must come with an 18+ warning as a result.

If it’s not government regulators, it’s Turkey’s president, ministers, chairs of human rights organisationsfaith chiefs and even retailers that are forcefully driving wedges between Turks and LGBT+ folk.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan even abandoned the landmark Instanbul Convention earlier this year because it “normalises homosexuality“, the Directorate of Communications, a state promotions agency, said.

ILGA-Europe, a group that monitors LGBT+ rights across Europe, ranked Turkey this year among the lowest in the continent for queer rights – as it has done for years.