Disney+ warns Turkish subtitle translators about hitting political nerves in Turkey

Disney+, which launched in Turkey last month, has warned its Turkish subtitle translators about the political atmosphere in Turkey, telling them to avoid hitting a nerve on a wide range of controversial issues that the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan are sensitive about, Turkish Minute reported on Wednesday.

Disney+, The Walt Disney Company’s flagship direct-to-customer digital streaming service platform, has been offering Turkish viewers access to more than 1,000 movies and over 16,000 episodes from some 400 TV shows and 170 documentaries and exclusive content collections since it launched in the country on June 14.

Before it started broadcasting, the online streaming platform opened an office in Turkey in line with a social media law that went into effect on Oct. 1, 2020, setting forth progressive sanctions forcing social media platforms with more than 1 million connections a day to appoint a representative in Turkey with whom the Turkish authorities can resolve problems arising from cases of insult, intimidation and violation of privacy.

After initially refusing to comply with the law, giant social media platforms, which were subjected to large fines by Turkish courts, had to announce that they would appoint local representatives to Turkey.

Duvar said the Disney+ administration sent an e-mail to its Turkish translators to warn them about the political atmosphere in the country with respect to some of the productions that include religious, national and political references.

According to Duvar, translators were asked to inform the platform’s Turkey administrators about productions that deal with critical issues for Islam, the massacre of Armenians at the hands of the Ottoman Empire during World War I, which Turkey does not recognize as a “genocide,” the Kurdish issue, the Cyprus problem and LGBTI+s, topics that Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) government are sensitive about.

The Kurdish issue, a term prevalent in Turkey’s public discourse, refers to the demand for equal rights by the country’s Kurdish population and their struggle for recognition, while the Cyprus problem refers to an ongoing dispute between Greek and Turkish Cypriots about each other’s legitimacy on the island.

The e-mail also asked the translators to inform Disney+ administrators for Turkey about productions that “make Erdoğan look like a dictator,” according to Duvar, which added that authorities from the digital streaming platform hadn’t returned their calls for comment.

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