Associated Press, AFP
Turkey's state broadcasting watchdog recommended Wednesday that television stations not broadcast French media programs, the latest backlash against a French law that would criminalize denial that the mass killings of Armenians in Turkey was genocide.
Members of the broadcasting group said they had decided by an unanimous vote that their recommendation would stay in place until France took the law completely off its agenda. French films, TV series and music account for about 10 percent of the content on Turkish radio and television, according to figures provided by the broadcasting watchdog. It was not immediately able to say how much Turkish broadcasters pay annually for French content.
Saban Sevinc, a member of the watchdog's board, said French films were third in popularity in Turkey behind American and Turkish films. "France is trying to raise its voice in the world film sector. (We) hope this decision will make some noise, even if it's small, in the French film industry and art world and make them ask 'What have we done?"'
The genocide denial bill was approved by lawmakers in France's lower house last week, but still needs approval from the French Senate and President Jacques Chirac to become law.
Turkey sees the bill as a hostile, anti-Turkish development, and has warned that the lawmakers' vote has already deeply harmed Turkish-French relations. Turkey's main consumer group also organized a boycott of French goods, saying it would publicize a French company each week and encourage Turks to boycott it. Turkey vehemently denies that it committed genocide against Armenians, though many nations have classified the World War I-era killings as such.
The European Union and European media have criticized the French bill, however, saying it is not in line with the principle of free expression and is not helpful to encouraging dialogue with Turkey, a hopeful EU candidate.
An official at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe added his voice to the criticism on Wednesday. Miklos Haraszti, an OSCE representative for freedom of media, asked Senate members to reject the amendment when it reaches the second French chamber, saying it was an attack on freedom of expression.
"I acknowledge the humanitarian intentions of those members of the assembly who support this proposal. However, the adoption of the amendment raises serious concerns with regard to international standards of freedom of expression," Haraszti wrote. "It is in the name of these same standards that I continue to call upon Turkey to remove Article 301 of the Penal Code, 'Insulting Turkish identity', which prosecutors in Turkey repeatedly use in the context of the Armenian genocide debate."