In Turkey, a popular TV Show gets slapped with fines and a broadcast ban

Screenshot from the TV Show Cranberry Sorbet credit's scene taken from the official YouTube page of the TV series.

In Turkey, the drama series “Kızılcık Şerbeti” (“Cranberry Sorbet”) found itself in hot water over an episode about violence against women. The series aired on Show TV, a popular Turkish television channel, in October 2022. In the show, a well-off but deeply conservative Turkish family is challenged when their son, Fatih, marries Doga, a woman from a secular, educated family with a line of strong, independent women. The plot thickens as the families must navigate through family events and learn to live together, albeit not always in harmony. 

Ever since its release, it's been criticized by both fronts of Turkish society — the secularists as well as conservatives. But it was not until Episode 18 that domestic violence became a plot point. The daughter of the conservative family, Nursema, is thrown out of a window by her now husband, Ibrahim, on their wedding night. Nursema, who was married against her will, resists her husband's sexual advances, and he then accuses her of not being a virgin. As Nursema attempts to escape him, she approaches a window, threatening to commit suicide. In the end, it is the husband who pushes her out of the window.

The scene prompted the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK), the country's chief censor, to fine the series TRY 1.5 million (USD 77,800) and order a broadcast ban that was to last five weeks over what the country's main censor described as encouraging violence against women. The move caused an uproar among the show's fans. #KızılcıkŞerbetineDokunma [Don't touch Cranberry Sorbet] trended on Turkish Twitter Space with fans as well as actors tweeting in support of reinstating the show. Among voices to air their concerns were Sıla Türkoğlu, one of the lead actresses in the show: 

Is it because we confront the bitter truths of our women in our society and do not show silent female characters? RTUK don't touch cranberry sorbet.

Barış Kılıç, another male actor in the show simply tweeted the hashtag with an image of the show's cover photo:


Other actors of the show chimed in. Müjde Uzman tweeted, “Art criticizes. It holds a mirror. It improves the perception and interest in the good and the beautiful. [A Turkish proverb says] the one who speaks truth would be expelled from nine villages. We are here. RTÜK #DontTouchCranberrySorbet.”

Joining the actors were scores of fans, politicians, and others like the Milliyet newspaper columnist Cemal Günbaş who wrote on Twitter, “Unfortunately, the truth has never been accepted and is not accepted in this country! What bothered you so much, I wonder? What right do you have to decide what I will watch, what I will find right or not?” addressing RTÜK's decision.

Member of the opposition DEVA party, Elif Menderes, tweeted, “Silent until now, you remembered about social sensitivities only after Nursema spoke? We don't want biased, freedom-restricting @rtukkurumsal! You can't silence women! Enough!” Menderes was referring to a fiery and emotional speech Nursema delivered to her in-laws and parents after the arduous journey of her escape: “Daddy, remember the day you married me off? This psychopath [pointing at her husband] pushed me out of the window. I spent two days in intensive care. I got edema in my brain, mother. And you, in the meantime, all thought I was on my honeymoon with this psychopath in Italy. How come you did not even bother to think of me? I returned to this house because I wanted to tell you all what happened to me. Now, I am leaving. I won't stay with this psychopath in the same house, nor do I intend to come close to him ever again.”

The sensitivity over the episode that drew the ire of the chief censor was also debated in the broader context of the country's backslide on women's and children's rights and the overall increasing censorship levels. Reports of domestic abuse and violence are a regularity in Turkey. The problem is compounded by the fact that the ruling Justice and Development Party withdrew the country from the Istanbul Convention, the world's leading convention on preventing and criminalizing domestic violence, and recently has come under the spotlight after agreeing to join forces with the ultra-religious New Welfare Party ahead of the upcoming general elections. The party in question hopes to amend Law 6284 on Protecting the Family and Preventing Violence Against Women to lessen the consequences of domestic violence, and close down LGBTQ+ clubs in the country. They also requested that the ruling Justice and Development ask parliament to approve Turkey's withdrawal from the İstanbul Convention and “that the provisions of Law number 6284, which is a continuation of this convention which harm the integrity of the families should be weeded out,” reported Turkish online newspaper Bianet. The Istanbul Convention is a legally-binding human rights treaty of the Council of Europe pledging to prevent, prosecute and eliminate domestic violence and promote gender equality. It was open to signature in 2011 and has been signed by 45 states. Law 6284 was adopted in 2012.
In the paper, “Content is power: Cultural engineering and political control over transnational television,” published in February 2023, authors Ece Algan and Yesim Kaptan trace the Turkish state's interference with TV programs since 2012. At the time, the then-Prime Minister Erdoğan condemned the producers of the show “Muhteşem Yüzyıl” [Magnificent Century], a historical drama about the life and reign of Suleiman the Magnificent, the 16th-century Ottoman sultan. “Before my nation, I condemn both the director of this series and the owner of the television station. We have already alerted the authorities, and we are awaiting a judicial decision,” said Erdoğan during a speech in 2012. RTÜK issued a warning to the television channel, airing the show, but no further action was taken. Instead, the chief media censor went after CNBC-e, fining it USD 30,000 over Simpson's episode. The censor alleged the episode made fun of God, violating the country's blasphemy laws.
Over the following years, RTÜK's powers grew. In 2019, RTÜK was granted powers to monitor online broadcasting ranging from on-demand platforms such as Netflix to regular and scheduled online broadcasts or amateur home video makers. Since then, RTÜK frequently censors or rejects content.
Turkey is known for its popular TV series that are exported globally. And yet, very few of these series’ international audiences are likely aware of the scale of censorship in the country nor of the self-censorship among the screenwriters. As for the die-hard fans of “Cranberry Sorbet,” all eyes are on April 7, when the series’ new episode is set to air despite the legal battle with the authorities.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.