Turkish ruling party criticises reported decision not to stream Disney+ ‘Ataturk’ series

Scenes ahead of Turkish presidential runoff vote, in Ankara

Turkish flags and an image of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk are displayed, ahead of Turkey’s May 28 presidential runoff vote, in Ankara, Turkey, May 27, 2023. REUTERS/Yves Herman/file photo

ISTANBUL, Aug 2 (Reuters) – Turkey’s ruling party has criticised a reported decision by Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) Disney+ not to broadcast a documentary about modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on its streaming service.

Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog said it was looking into the reports in Turkish and Armenian media.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) called on Disney+ in June to cancel the show, saying that it “glorifies a Turkish dictator and genocide killer”.

Last month, Disney+ Turkey announced the Ataturk series would be on air “very soon”.

“The original series #Ataturk will be on air very soon, on the 100th anniversary of our Republic,” it said in a post on X.

Ataturk is highly revered in Turkey and Ebubekir Sahin, chairman of Turkey’s television watchdog RTUK, announced the probe on Tuesday night in a statement on the messaging platform X, describing Ataturk as “our most important social value”.

Omer Celik, the spokesperson for President Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, condemned the reported decision not to stream the series in a post on X, saying the decision was “shameful” and “disrespectful”.

Several Turkish and Armenian news reports said Disney had decided to cancel the series, including the Armenian independent media outlet 301, saying the decision was influenced by the lobbying activities of ANCA.

Walt Disney Turkey said on Wednesday that it had “revised content distribution strategy to reach wider audience” and decided to air a special version of the documentary on the FOX television channel in Turkey, and then it would be shown as two separate films in theatres.

The statement did not make it clear whether the Ataturk films will be broadcasted on the Disney+ streaming service.

“As part of the centenary celebrations, we’re proud to announce that we will be bringing Ataturk to even more people from October through free to air FOX. Followed then by a theatrical window where people can experience both Film 1 and Film 2 on the big screen,” Saner Ayar, the producer, was quoted as saying in the Walt Disney Turkey statement.

In May 1915, Ottoman commanders began the mass deportation of Armenians from eastern Turkey. Armenia says some 1.5 million died in massacres or of starvation and exhaustion in the desert.

Young colonel Mustafa Kemal – later known as Ataturk – was a commander at the Gallipoli campaign of World War One in 1915.

The 1915 killings have been recognised as genocide in dozens of countries. Turkey denies the killings were systematic or constitute genocide and says thousands of both Turks and Armenians died in inter-ethnic violence.

Reporting by Burcu Karakas;
Editing by Daren Butler and Giles Elgood

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