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Turkey fines popular TV series after religious controversy

ANKARA, Dec 28 (Reuters) - Turkey's radio and television watchdog RTUK on Thursday placed a two-week broadcasting ban on the popular television series "Kizil Goncalar" (Crimson Buds), a board member said, as it was deemed to be against "society's national and spiritual values".

Ilhan Tasci, a member of the RTUK board representing the main opposition, said on social media platform X that the regulator had also imposed a 3% administrative fine on broadcaster Fox TV, owned by Walt Disney Co. DIS.N unit Fox Networks Group.

"Kizil Goncalar", which highlights the division between religious and secular segments of society, faced immediate backlash after it was first aired on Dec. 18, even though its first two episodes topped ratings lists and had more than 10 million views on YouTube.

RTUK has often penalised shows over what it has labelled as violations of Turkey's moral values, the structure of family, or other issues it considers to be unethical, namely LGBTQ+ rights. Its critics and opposition parties have criticised it for curbing freedoms.

The show's producer, Faruk Turgut, said the series reflected the sociological reality of Turkey, portraying the clash between secular and religious segments of society.

"I am trying to hold a mirror on the realities of Turkish society. The realities must be discussed, we cannot progress by ignoring them," Turgut was quoted by daily Hurriyet as saying.

"They declared war on us, but we will fight until the end."

Ebubekir Sahin, RTUK chairman and a member of President Tayyip Erdogan's ruling AK Party, wrote on X that outraged viewers had called for the cancellation of the show, and that its posters on billboards in Istanbul had been vandalised with black paint.

Pro-government media accused the show of being Islamophobic, prompting the cancellation of filming venue permits for upcoming episodes.

The Ismailaga Brotherhood, a prominent religious sect in Turkey, sharply criticized the series.

"Productions in today's media that target our religion and devout individuals by aiming to denigrate the names of Allah, our noble book the Quran, spiritual institutions such as sects and orders, are absolutely unacceptable," the sect said on X.

Tasci said the "RTUK has bowed down to cults and sects".

(Reporting by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Sharon Singleton)

((ece.toksabay@tr.com; +90 312 2927022; Reuters Messaging: ece.toksabay.reuters.com@reuters.net))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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