Interview with ROJ TV director: ROJ TV is facing an international conspiracy
In January 2012 the City Court in Denmark ruled that the Kurdish TV-station ROJ TV from February 7, 2008 to February 10, 2010 had acted as a mouthpiece for PKK, a Kurdish rebel group fighting for Kurdish rights in Turkey.
The court also stated in the verdict that ROJ TV had repeated messages from PKK without presenting other views and that the guerrilla is portrayed in a positive way and manner that indicates more than sympathy for PKK. The judge however did not see any proof of these links between ROJ TV and PKK in the period from June 10, 2006 to February, 2008 which had also been a count in the charge against ROJ TV.
The two companies, ROJ TV A/S and Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S were declared guilty of promoting PKK activities and were sentenced to pay a combined fine of approximately 900,000 dollars.
The companies were acquitted the prosecutors’ demand of suspending ROJ TV’s broadcasting license in Denmark because the Danish penal law cannot on legal basis confiscate the rights of companies, associations, etc.
Only a few days after, Mesopotamia A/S and ROJ TV A/S decided together with their lawyer to appeal the verdict to the High Court. “The defence lawyer was not allowed to refute the prosecutors’ evidence with TV-excerpts,” said Imdat Yilmaz, the director of ROJ TV. “Only the prosecutors were allowed to present TV-excerpts as proof.”
What do you want to achieve with the appeal trial?
We hope to achieve what we were prevented from in the City Court. We want to present more evidence and witnesses. In that way the two sides are more equal in the High Court. We now have two defence lawyers: Bjørn Elmquist (ROJ TV A/S) and Steen Bech (Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S).
The High Court has also approved the defence counsel’s submission of a total of 3,5 hour long program-excerpts and 5 new witnesses: Oluf Jørgensen (professor of media), Pola Rojan (journalist), Martin Selsøe Sørensen (journalist), Haluk Gerger (professor, Middle East and international affairs expert) and Kerim Yildiz (Kurdistan’s Human Rights Project).
In January 2012 ROJ TV was called “a mouthpiece for terror.” What impact has this made on ROJ TV?
People see you as terrorists when you are charged according to terror paragraphs. That was the objective of the verdict in the City Court: to sentence the companies a punishment which would eventually shut the companies down because no one would want to work together with them.
Our partners began contemplating their co-operation with us. First, our Danish bank told us they did not want us as a client anymore which entailed that no other Danish bank would either.
Then our satellite firm, EuroBird, announced they wanted to stop the collaboration. We tried to find other satellite firms but all were put under pressure from an “unknown” part. We knew about the political agendas behind this harassment. Powers within NATO (Turkey, USA, France, England and Denmark) had decided to close ROJ TV. They succeeded because we could not send via satelite anymore and had to close ROJ TV.
In the beginning of March 2012 we informed the Danish TV- and Radio Board that we would use our second broadcasting license to air a new news channel called NUÇE TV which is being broadcasted by the same satellite firm that refused co-operation with ROJ TV.
What is the ROJ TV case really about? Wikileaks have published documents that shows the tv-station has been a victim of political interests.
ROJ TV is a threat to Turkey. Every time they have a meeting with their allies (USA, NATO and the EU), ROJ TV and the Kurds are on the agenda. Turkey wants to put an end to all that is Kurdish. Documents from some of these meetings (between state officials) have been leaked by Wikileaks. Turkey pressured NATO including the member Denmark to close ROJ TV in return for not vetoing the former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s bid to become NATO General Secretary. Turkey will go out of its way to shut down the Kurdish media.
It has been known that the prosecutors do not translate their evidence (the TV-excerpts) correct. What consequence does it have for the case?
It is not critical if there are some mistakes but we will keep pointing them out to the judges so they are aware of it. They (the prosecutors) have translated the protest chant “The guerilla beats Büyükanit (the Turkish general chief of staff)” to “Guerilla beats the big memorial fleeing.”
It makes no sense, because the translator obviously does not know that Büyükanit is a name. Or else it is Google Translate that translates the sentence word by word, so “büyük” becomes “big” and “anit” “memorial.” And “Sayin Öcalan” (Mr. Öcalan) was translated as “The Falcon Öcalan.”
Who has the defence counsel called in to witness and what can they contribute with?
The defence counsel had hoped for more witnesses from Turkey who would be able to tell about the situation there and why ROJ TV is important for the Kurdish people. Leyla Zana and Osman Baydemir were rejected. Two former Kurdish mayors, who were among the 53 mayors in Turkey who wrote a letter to the former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen and later imprisoned, were also rejected as witnesses.
In the City Court almost all the defence counsel’s witnesses were rejected. Only one was approved. Later a Kurdish woman, a doctor from Århus (a Danish city), was allowed to testify as she had appeared in a health program about breast cancer on ROJ TV.
The High Court has besides these two witnesses approved 5 others: Haluk Gerger from Turkey, Kerim Yildiz from England, Oluf Jørgensen, Martin Selsøe Sørensen and Pola Rojan from Denmark.
Haluk Gerger will be testifying about the Kurdish problem in Turkey, the history behind it and the current situation.
Kerim Yildiz has been working with complaints regarding Kurdish issues to the European Court of Human Rights for decades and can contribute with this knowledge.
Oluf Jørgensen will be able to talk about the role of the media and freedom of speech.
Journalists Martin Selsøe Sørensen and Pola Rojan will testify about the situation in Turkey, the conflict, the village guards and the imprisoned journalists and censor.
Who are the prosecutors’ witnesses?
Many of the prosecutors’ witnesses are from Turkey. They are either village guards or former PKK members.
Out of 17 witnesses from Turkey only one came to the City Court. The rest was in jail or were not allowed to leave the country.
There is also a secret witness from PET (the Danish Intelligence) who wrote a report about PKK on request from the prosecutors.
Their main witness was former director of ROJ TV A/S and Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S, Manouchehr Tahsili Zonoozi.
The prosecutors’ evidence has partly been procured by Turkey and other European countries. It once again concludes that ROJ TV is facing an international conspiracy.
Who attends the court sessions?
The Turkish authorities are present during every court session. They are following and writing down what is being said and presented. Turkey was the party that complained and of course it is Turkey who has been supporting the complaints and is continuing in doing so.
When will the High Court announce its verdict and what do you think it will be?
The case will continue until the end of June 2013 and a verdict is expected to be made at the end of August or beginning of September 2013. We hope that the verdict of the High Court will be different from the City Court’s decision and in our favour. But we do not know.
Why is ROJ TV important?
The Kurdish people sees ROJ TV as their own TV-station. They finance it and they are therefore the real owners. It is the only station that brings news about the Kurds and what they are experiencing. The Kurdish language, the dialects, the culture survive through the programs in TV. People learn their own language and dance to the music that is played on the screen.
ROJ TV has tried to start a debate about the oppression in Kurdistan, and we think we succeeded in doing that. The many debate shows and documentaries have shown what the Kurdish people have been exposed to. We hope it will lead to negotiations and a solution to the problem.
Correction: We previously wrote that Haluk Gerger is a professor from the Kurdistan Human Rights Project. This is not true, he is a professor and expert on the Middle East and international affairs.