ROJ TV & the dirty horse-trading agreement


Photo by Lillian Simonsen

In my article “ROJ TV in the Land of the Snow Queen”, I questioned the verdict of the Kurdish tv-station ROJ TV that was ruled by the Danish court to be a mouthpiece for the Kurdish rebel group PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the European Union and the United States.

My question revolved around the point that neither Turkey nor the United States can be regarded as trustworthy when it comes to deciding who is a terrorist and who is not. Their words might at occasions be those of peace but their actions cannot be described as the opposite of terrifying and terrorising.

The verdict in January ruled ROJ TV guilty of portraying PKK ”in a positive way and manner that indicates more than sympathy for PKK.”
Despite this the Danish court did not have authority to suspend ROJ TV’s broadcasting license and the tv-station continued to air.

It caused the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu to call his Danish colleague, Villy Soevndal and express his anger at the decision.

Soevndal told Danish media that the Danish government also found the verdict strange and that Denmark takes terrorism and encouragement of terrorism very seriously.

It is without doubt damaging to every oppressed people’s freedom fight that an established state can label their fight as terrorism and that politicians and leaders use the word terrorism so lightly.

There are two things one must consider before calling ROJ TV a supporter of terrorism. Firstly, PKK is a Kurdish party fighting against Turkey’s year long oppression of Kurds. PKK consists of Kurds and it is only natural for other Kurds, many of who have family members in PKK, to want to hear about PKK. The main purpose of ROJ TV is to report what is relevant to Kurds; PKK is highly relevant.

Secondly, ”terrorism” seems to be a registered trademark to be used only by the states in the West. One must question the use of it. The saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is a kliché yet it does not seem to have caused real reflection among us.

It is easier for the average person to accept the state’s definition of a terrorist and keep quiet while the state does “what is best for the country.”
For example when a person reads an article about Kurds and PKK, it will most likely end with the phrase: “PKK is declared a terror organisation by the US, European Union and Turkey” and fails to mention that PKK is also regarded as freedom fighters by many Kurds.

MEDTV – when ROJ TV’s predecessor was closed by an arms dealer

MEDTV was a Kurdish tv-station based in London but its broadcasting license was suspended in April 1999 (Wikipedia writes the license was revoked at ”the official request of Turkey”) because the British Independent Television Commision found that ”It is not in the public interest to have any broadcaster use the UK as a platform for broadcasts which incite people to violence.”

Before we move on, please hesitate on the part ”broadcasts which incite people to violence.” There is hardly anything on TV that is not an incitement to violence, everything and everyone seem violent.

The above-mentioned reason for the closure of MEDTV was given by the commission chairman Sir Robin Biggam, a man that makes one question whether the British Independent Television Commission (ITC) was really acting independently in its decision to close MEDTV.

In May 1999 Nick Cohen, a columnist, wrote about MEDTV and the ITC in the Guardian: ”Biggam is a busy man. […] he’s an arms dealer on the board of British Aerospace. The company has made hundreds of millions of pounds out of inciting violence by selling tanks and missiles to Turkey. Its latest venture is to provide Ankara with 500,000 assault rifles and 1,500 grenade launchers which will doubtless splatter many Kurdish brains. The weapons will be made in Turkey so we can ignore the standard guff from hard-headed pragmatists about the need to protect British jobs.”

You can read Nick Cohen’s piece here.

ROJ TV cannot be silenced

The case of ROJ TV is just as tinged with Western interests with Turkey as in the matter of MEDTV.

Documents leaked by Wikileaks indicated that the former Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, in April 2010 promised Turkey to look into the matter of ROJ TV and investigate possible ways to close it down if Turkey in return would promise not to veto his call to become the next NATO general secretary.

The message leaked included the following part: “Tacan İldem (Turkey’s Representative to NATO) added that as part of the 2009 POTUS [President of the United States]-brokered appointment of Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO Secretary-General, Denmark had promised to clarify its legal requirements prerequisite to acceding to Turkey’s request for the closure of Roj TV, a PKK mouthpiece. This still needed to be done, İldem said.”

It was called a “dirty horse-trading agreement” by the Danish parties then in the opposition. Ironically, the same parties are today part of the government and they are just as eager as the previous government to remain on good terms with Turkey who they consider to have taken “highly brave” steps in regard to freedom of press.

After a visit to Turkey where the new Danish prime minister met with her counterpart, she expressed her wonder at how a terror organisation could be allowed to broadcast from Denmark, thereby assuming that ROJ TV is fully controlled by PKK. It is not befitted a politician to comment on an ongoing trial and a comment like that is damaging to the entire Kurdish freedom movement.

But neither the Prime Minister nor the Danish court has authority to close down ROJ TV, only the independent Danish TV & Radio Board can do this.
The board has three times before investigated the content of ROJ TV’s broadcasts and have denied that it incited terrorism. The board is currently doing a fourth investigation that was initiated after the verdict was appealed in January.

Is there reason to be concerned about the outcome of this investigation? Have ROJ TV really changed its broadcasting radically since the last time it underwent an investigation by the board?
No matter what the outcomes of the appeal trial and board investigation are, Kurds have shown that their voice cannot be silenced. A new channel, Nuçê TV, has replaced ROJ TV and more and more Kurdish tv-channels are being established, even radio stations have seen the light of the day.

Kurdish acitivists fight to give a voice to the oppressed people through social media like Facebook and Twitter despite the censoring by especially Facebook.

It is as simple as this: Kurds are a fire that cannot be extinguished.

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