Broadcaster’s ban on cowboy films puts further strain on US-Turkey relations

Shown in this image is combination of screen grabs from the Cowboy movie The Man from Bitter Ridge, starring John Wayne. Turkey's state-run broadcaster TRT has stopped broadcasting cowboy movies in nprotest against US economic sanctions against its former ally. 
Updated 29 August 2018
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Broadcaster’s ban on cowboy films puts further strain on US-Turkey relations

  • State-run TRT TV used to run US cowboy movies on Sundays since the 1980s
  • TRT has dropped cowboy movies to help protest the US economic embargo against Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey: Following Ankara's recent embargo on US-origin electronic goods in response to US sanctions on steel and manufacture imports, US-Turkey relations are further deteriorating with the latest decision of Turkish state-run broadcaster TRT to cease broadcasting Sunday morning cowboy movies and replace them with Turkish films.

Almost as a tradition, TRT has shown cowboy movies on Sundays since the 1980s and it is the first time that the bilateral diplomatic crisis between the NATO allies has hit the movie sector, amid Turkish conspiracy theories that see American imperialism behind every problem in the country.

The decision follows the warning of Turkish media watchdog Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) about the expansion of American imperialism and culture through movies. RTUK’s chief Ilhan Yerlikaya recently called on media outlets to show more sensitivity about preventing the extension of American imperialism in commercial ads of American products.

However, in terms of cultural export, Turkey itself globally ranks second in television series exports behind the US as its well-known soap operas reach wide audiences in the Middle East and Latin America as well as the Balkans.
According to a survey conducted by Pew Research Center in spring 2017, 45 percent of Turkish respondents like American movies, music and television

In the meantime, Ankara does not seem eager for a complete break away from Washington. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday that Turkey’s relations with Russia are not an alternative to ties with the EU or the US. 

But he quickly responded to the US reluctance to transfer F-35 fighter jets to Turkey: “If they say they can do anything they want, like in cowboy movies, then they will get a response.”
Burak Ozcetin, an expert from Istanbul Kadir Has University’s faculty of communication, thinks the recent comments by RTUK’s chief can be considered an ad hoc response to the ongoing crisis with the US, and for his part, expressions of his enthusiasm to prove his worth to President Erdogan, which is nowadays a common reflex among Turkish bureaucrats. 

“Anti-Americanism is a powerful ideological motive in Turkey, and recent polls have shown that anti-American sentiments are on the rise among the population,” he told Arab News. 

The results of the Research on Social and Political Trends in Turkey, conducted by Kadir Has University in 2017, revealed that 64.3 percent of the Turkish population evaluate the US as the No. 1 threat against Turkey, while the figures were 39 percent in 2015 and 2016.

“But this anti-American sentiment is also marked by a love-hate relationship. Things so far have shown us the possible normalization of the relations will appease the anti-imperialist outburst of the cultural elites and bureaucrats,” Ozcetin said.

However, for Turkish citizens this decision may spark yet another cultural war between the two countries.

“I spent all my childhood watching US cowboy movies and it seems bizarre to withdraw them from the screen at a time when people can watch whatever they want on the Internet. But I wonder whether the next step might be to block Netflix in Turkey,” Kerem Caglar, a youngster living in Ankara, told Arab News.

Netflix is an American-origin Internet-streaming provider of movies that recently entered the Turkish market with a high rate of subscribers. 

“There was a time, the 1980s to be more specific, when cowboy movies broadcast by TRT played a role on public perceptions of the US, but this is no longer the case,” Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, Ankara director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told Arab News. 

“With numerous private channels way more popular than TRT, the rating of those movies is very low anyway. Besides, American movies are all over the private channels, movies, digital platforms and the Internet,” he added. 

According to Unluhisarcikli, if TRT doesn’t show John Wayne movies, private channels will show Brad Pitt movies, and if private channels boycott American productions, digital platforms won’t. 

“If digital platforms are banned people will turn to the Internet. If websites streaming American movies and series are blocked, they will use VPN services. I believe that TRT’s recent decision is either commercial or symbolic and won’t have any real impact,” he said.


Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

Police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident. (AP)
Updated 7 min 20 sec ago
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Militants kidnap Christian in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula

  • The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish

CAIRO: Extremist militants on Thursday kidnapped a Christian man traveling in a taxi in the turbulent north of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, according to security officials, an incident that raises the specter of renewed attacks on minority Christians in the region after a two-year lull.

The officials did not identify the man, but said police pursued the kidnappers into the desert to which they fled after the incident, killing one of them and wounding two others in a firefight, but could not free the hostage. Two policemen were also wounded in the firefight, said the officials.

There was no word on whether any of the other passengers traveling in the taxi, a minibus, were harmed, suggesting that the kidnapping of the Christian man could have been planned. 

The attack took place about 30 km west of El-Arish, northern Sinai’s largest city, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

A spate of attacks on Christians in northern Sinai in late 2016 and early 2017 forced nearly 300 families to flee their homes there and find refuge elsewhere in Egypt. 

Those killed included a cleric, workers, a doctor and a merchant. The last Christian to be killed in Sinai was in January 2018, when militants gunned him down as he walked on the street in El-Arish.

The militants, now led by Daesh, say they are punishing the Christians for their support of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The spiritual leader of Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Christians, whose ancient church is the country’s predominant Christian denomination, is a close ally of El-Sisi, who has made sectarian harmony a cornerstone of his domestic policy. 

El-Sisi’s patronage of the community has given Christians a measure of protection but did little to protect them from radicals, particularly in regions south of Cairo where Christians are a sizable minority.

Since 2016, Daesh militants have killed more than 100 Christians in attacks targeting churches and buses carrying pilgrims to remote desert monasteries. 

Also on Thursday, according to the officials, suspected militants sneaked into the parking lot of the main hospital in the city of Rafah on the Sinai border with the Gaza Strip and torched two vehicles before escaping. 

The incident was the latest in a recent spate of violent incidents in Rafah, most of whose residents have been evicted and compensated over the past year to deny the militants hiding places.

Nearly a year ago, the government threw into the battle against the Sinai militants thousands of troops, heavy armor, helicopter gunships and jet fighters in a bid to end the insurgency. 

The operation has significantly reduced the number of attacks and restored a near total normal life in El-Arish, on the Mediterranean coast.