Turkey is a bad place to be an influencer

Anxious about its failure to establish cultural hegemony, the Erdogan government is going after internet stars

This month, the Turkish social media celebrity and author Pucca was sentenced to almost six years in prison for “promoting drug use” due to tweets she wrote about the television series Narcos. Following her sentencing, Pucca, whose legal name is Selen Pinar Isik, posted a teary Instagram story informing her followers of the decision, ruefully pointing out that even Pablo Escobar got a lesser punishment for his crimes.

While Turkey has been no stranger to judicial scandals in recent years, Pucca’s harsh sentence still managed to raise eyebrows. Many commentators, including Pucca herself, decried the absurdity of the sentence, noting that rapists and perpetrators of other serious crimes regularly go unpunished. Some social media followers have speculated that the prison sentence was meant as retribution for the influencer’s support of the opposition politician Muharrem Ince, who ran against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year for the country’s top office. If that is true, the verdict against Pucca, who has nearly 2 million followers on Twitter and 677,000 on Instagram, sends a chilling message to social media celebrities: Don’t use your influence against the government.

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