Netflix and Turkish gov’t talks break down over local series with gay theme - report

Negotiations between Netflix and officials linked to Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) over a gay character featured in a popular Turkish series by the streaming platform have ended in a faceoff, journalist Cüneyt Özdemir said on Saturday.

The dispute revolves a coming-of-age comedy drama Aşk 101 (Love 101) that featured a storyline surrounding a gay high school student Turkey’s state broadcasting regulator RTÜK wanted censored.

After days of talks, “Netflix drew the line at AKP's homosexuality censorship and stopped shooting the show in Turkey”, Özdemir said on Twitter. “It refused to accept the censorship.”

Shortly before Aşk 101 launched in April, RTÜK head Ebubekir Şahin said the TV watchdog would not tolerate a homosexual theme, adding that RTÜK would apply sanctions to Netflix if the series featured a gay character. The subsequent airing of the show was interpreted as the series being clear of any themes of homosexuality.

Özdemir wondered how the negotiations between Netflix, RTÜK and Turkish Tourism Ministry officials went. “Which roles were wished to be changed in the show? How many Netflix shows did RTÜK look to censor?” he said.

“Could Turkey become the first country in the world to ban Netflix?”

RTÜK, which is controlled by allies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has come under fire for turning increasingly conservative under the 18-year rule of his Islamist AKP.

Turkey's LGBTI+ community has faced considerable discrimination and hostility under Erdoğan’s rule. In 2019, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (IGLA) said that Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia were the worst ranked countries in Europe for LGBTI+ rights.