ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A look at legislation passed in Turkey's parliament early Friday that would ban all alcohol advertising and tighten restrictions on the sale of such beverages, and how such a law could affect tourists and liquor companies in the mainly Muslim but secular country.
Q: What happened?
A: Tempers flared and scuffles broke out during an all-night legislative session that passed a bill proposed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted party to ban all forms of advertising of alcohol -- including the promotion of brands and logos -- and the sale of alcoholic drinks in shops between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. The legislation would prohibit alcohol sales within 100 meters (yards) of mosques and schools. Booze ads already are banned on television in Turkey, but the new law would force TV stations to blur the images of drinks shown anywhere on the screen, even during movies and soap operas. All liquor bottles would display warning signs about the harms of alcohol, and there would be stricter penalties on drunken driving.
The government says the measure would shield Turkey's youth from the harms of booze, but secular opponents charge it's another example of the governing party's encroachment on personal freedoms. The party has a majority in Parliament, and a walkout by the opposition allowed the bill to pass 193 to 4. President Abdullah Gul generally acts in accordance with the government, and he is expected to sign the bill into law.
Q: How would this affect tourists?
Probably not very much. Tourism is an important source of revenue for Turkey's booming economy, with more than 30 million foreigners visiting the country last year. In a bow to the industry, the bill makes clear that the ban on the sale of alcohol near schools and mosques wouldn't apply to establishments with tourist certificates. Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu said that while shops couldn't sell alcohol between 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., the ban wouldn't affect bars and restaurants, including the many located in hotels that tourists use. Open air bars and restaurants would continue to serve alcohol. As in many Muslim countries, nobody would walk down a street, or sit on a park bench, drinking booze in public and expect to get away with it. But drinking in the privacy of one's home or hotel room is common.
Q: Will the companies selling alcohol be affected?
A: Diageo, the London-based spirits company, acquired Turkey's drinks company, Mey Icki, in 2011, and it already has voiced concerns. In a statement released Thursday, Diageo said it is seeking talks with government officials for "fair, balanced and responsible" regulation, and that it bought the Turkish company believing it was investing in a country that encouraged foreign investments.
Q: What's the government's rationale?
A: Erdogan is a devout Muslim whose governing party is rooted in Turkey's Islamic movement. He insists he has no intention of banning alcohol, just to curtail its consumption, especially by youths. He insists he is committed to Turkey's secular policies and its goal of joining the European Union. He frequently quotes the Constitution as saying the nation is responsible for safeguarding young people from alcohol, drugs and gambling. "We don't want a generation walking around drunk night and day. We want a youth that is sharp and shrewd and full of knowledge," Erdogan said Friday in defense of the legislation.
Q: Why did secular parties oppose the legislation?
A: Secularists accuse the government of increasingly meddling in their lifestyles and imposing its conservative values on society. Some believe that Erdogan is trying to gradually impose an Islamic agenda. They claim that Turkey does not have an alcoholism problem and that only 1
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.