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Friday, December 27, 2013

Turkish Game Show Pulled After Hinting at Corruption Scandal

Video of the host of the Turkish quiz show “The Word Game” asking a guest a question about corruption.

Last Updated, 7:43 p.m. | A popular Turkish game show disappeared from the airwaves this week after its host appeared to make a veiled reference to a widening corruption scandal by asking a contestant to name a slang term for a person who takes bribes.

As the Turkish sociologist Zeynep Tufekci explained, Ali Ihsan Varol, the star of the quiz show “Kelime Oyunu,” or “The Word Game,” apparently crossed a line in an episode broadcast last week when he informed a stumped guest on the show that the word he was looking for was “yiyici,” a Turkish word for an “eater,” commonly used to describe a corrupt official.

This was the second time in six months that Mr. Varol has apparently been rebuked for introducing politics into his vocabulary quiz. The program was also halted in June, after he devoted an entire episode to words associated with the antigovernment protests in Gezi Park â€" like “Taksim,” “gas mask” and “dictator” â€" that the local news media had largely ignored.

As the journalist and blogger Sevgi Akarcesme noted in Today’s Zaman, an English-language news site, advocates of press freedom expressed concern that the show had been removed as part of a wider crackdown on media reporting on the scandal, “such as the restriction of certain newspapers on Turkish Airlines (THY) planes, blocking access to journalist Mehmet Baransu’s website and the decision to shut down press offices within the country’s police departments.”

The game show commentary came amid self-censorship in the Turkish media so widespread that a news channel’s website even failed to report that a government minister who resigned on the air during one of its own live broadcasts had also called for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to step down.

As Ms. Akarcesme also reported in Today’s Zaman, one of the country’s leading comedians, Cem Yilmaz, rallied to Mr. Varol’s defense. Writing on Twitter, the comedian told his five million followers: “The most decent TV program has stopped being broadcast. I once volunteered to be a contestant on the show. It was my favorite. I condemn the decision.”

The journalist Emre Kizilkaya also saluted the game show host in a post on his blog headlined, “On Turkish TV, Even Implied Criticism Is Not Allowed.” Mr. Varol, the blogger wrote, “pushed away a handsome salary and a chance to remain as a face on a popular TV to stake a claim on his right to criticize â€" although in a veiled way. He is a man of principles with a much better grade than many journalists.”