ROJ TV and Freedom of the Press

ROJ TV is an important tool for resolving conflict and strengthening of democracy and human rights in Turkey. The closure of ROJ TV will harm a peaceful solution and intensify the armed conflict for Kurdish rights.

Every year, on the 24th of July, the ‘removal of censorship’ is celebrated in Turkey. In 2008 the hundredth year was celebrated with official statements. People who may not know the truths of Turkey will not know that these types of celebrations in Turkey are done to show something that really is not there. The last century in Turkey can be analysed in vary many ways. This century can be remembered as the century in which freedom of the press was nonexistent, where freedom of thought and expression were not recognised, and also where broadcasting in languages other than that of the official language was banned.

Precisely on the day of loud celebrations of the removal of censorship an opposition TV station Hayat TV’s screens were closed. On this precise day of ‘celebration’ 20 journalists or writers were in prison. The names of these prisoners are attached. As a warm subject, broadcaster Ragip Zarakoglu was punished under article 301 of the Turkish constituency on this very day. There are many more examples like these that can be found in the reports of relevant organisations.

Pressures on the Kurdish Press

Pressure on alternative democratic sections in Turkey is intensified when the subject of this pressure is Kurdish. It is not possible to explain the proceedings against media organisations that have adopted a non-official stance towards the Kurdish question in the past 15 years. Kurdish intellectuals and journalists have been subjected to extra judicial killings, Ozgur Gundem’s headquarters in Istanbul was blown up, newspaper boys of a young age were either killed or injured. Other than this it is not even possible to calculate the number of journalists imprisoned or forced to flee the country. Of course these types of occurrences are not history. They still go on today, although methods may have changed a little.

Especially after the AKP governments introduction of new Anti Terror Laws the numbers of newspaper closures has increased dramatically. According to a statistic in our hands in the past 11 months 20 newspapers were closed down.

We can give Dicle News Agency as an example of attacks against the Kurdish media. I would like to give you a brief summary of attacks on DIHA which started its broadcasting life on the 4th of April 2002. In September 2004 its headquarters was raided by the police in which all its equipment was confiscated and 16 of its workers were arrested. Reporters Birol Duru and Rustu Demirkaya were arrested and imprisoned for 6 years and 3 months. At least 10 reporters are being charged. 5 of its workers are still under arrest. Another point is that most of the news that is being investigated is in one way or another linked to the Turkish Armed Forces. In various raids a total of 6 computers, 12 cameras were confiscated. Arrests that did not result in charges brought with them beatings, rejections to official events and confiscations of news materials. For example Musa Askara, reporter for Siirt, has been arrested 15 times in 2 years, threatened and beaten up on the street. There exists no fewer than 10 reports to the Human Rights Association by Askara regarding these infringements. Only examples regarding DIHA are enough to give us an image of what is going on in Turkey.

There are serious barricades in front of Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey. Although the legal barricades have been removed, the rights on these matters remain solely in the hands of the government. A 30-minute broadcast in Kurdish a week on state television channel TRT is shown to the outside world as an example that this issue has been addressed; it is nonetheless obvious that this is nothing but a cover up. In these days it is being discussed whether this can be raised to 10 hours a week. A long serving Turkish Intelligence worker has been put at the head of this project. A large proportion of the Kurds have no hope that this sort of approach will bring any success. The pressure on independent media organisations further raises questions on the neutrality of such a project.

The Structure of the Turkish Media

Alongside this it is worth mentioning the situation of the Turkish Media. As the pressures on the independent media only reflect one half of the coin, the stance of the sovereign mainstream media reflects the other half.

Today in Turkey the media represents one side of the inner conflicts and political developments. Especially the conflict between the AKP and the Turkish Armed Forces is reflected in the media by a division in the media on this matter through the financial and moral backing of these two organisations. However these two camps in the media have a shocking similarity when the issue is the Kurds. The rejection of the Kurdish identity, the provocation of fascist and racist sentiments among the people, the degradation of Kurdishness and its values are committed by both camps. They are closed to the problems the Kurdish people face, closed to everything to do with the Kurdish people. Many examples can be found even in a look through a day’s publications in the Turkish media. This issue is a topic for debate in itself. However, I would like to give an example from one of Turkey’s highest selling paper Hurriyet in which its front page carries the phrase “Turkey belongs to Turks”. How this paper provokes racism in Turks living in Europe is well known. This has even been seen as a problem by Germany and even caused discomfort between the two countries.

In brief, the Turkish media is a tool of official ideology in Turkey and accordingly is closed to the Kurdish question and closed to the Kurds themselves. İt is also not a surprise that many journalists are now being connected to the Ergenekon gang.

İt is obvious that Kurdish media is under heavy pressure and Turkish media is in a racist and rejection stance towards the Kurds.

The Banning of ROJ TV

The banning of Roj TV by the German Home Secretary has raised a lot of discomfort among the Kurds. Roj TV has a very special place among the Kurdish people and their history. It is a lifeline for the Kurds and other cultures that have no means to express themselves. Its sentimental value cannot be overstated.

1- Roj TV broadcasts in the Kurmanci, Sorani, Zazaki and Hewremani dialects of the Kurdish language alongside Turkish, Arabic, English, Assyrian and Armenian. In the German home secretary’s decision it is said that Roj TV is not in compliance with the fraternity of peoples. Does broadcasting in nine languages reject the fraternity of peoples? This should be explained. As we said earlier broadcasting in another language other than in Turkish in Turkey is not possible. Lets leave to aside Turkey, in which Middle Eastern country is there such a broadcasting policy?

Another aspect of this is what is being broadcasted. In Turkey it is evident by watching TV for a day that most broadcasts are filled with militarist, racist and Chauvinist sentiments. On the other hand we can give many examples of broadcasts from Roj TV reiterating the fraternity between the Kurdish and Turkish people and the desire of the peoples to live together. The only thing taking place is criticism of the government and this is a totally democratic right if not a duty.

2. In the decision to ban Roj TV there is a point that claims Roj TV calls for violence, this is an allegation straight from the Turkish authorities. The Turkish authorities have tried many times to attempt to pressure the Danish government who hold the license for Roj TV to cancel this license on these grounds. An example of this is that on the 1st of November 2007 two Turkish officials in Denmark made an application on these grounds, which was analysed by the Danish authorities and were found to be false. In its statement for its decision it was stated that the conclusion was reached through analysing whether Roj TV had incited racial, sexual, religious or national hatred and it concluded that it had not. It should therefore be acknowledged that the German authorities approach is biased and subjective.

3. It could only be for the reason that the German authorities have tried very hard to find something to close down Roj TV that it has even stated what a TV station should broadcast. It stated that Roj TV only broadcasted political programmes. When looking at the statistic of Roj TV’s broadcasts it can be seen that 14.54% of broadcasts is music related, 14.51% is news related and 14.20% is related to social life. Although even if it was completely political this is still the decision of the TV station. There are examples of these types of channels around the world. It is very weird that this should be stated as a crime. Linked with this is the point that news on the PKK and Ocalan were stated as reasons for this decision.

To leave out an issue which has been at the heart of Turkish politics for 30 years and has directly affected millions of people is not very neutral at all. I am also curious as to how the TV station’s coverage of Ocalan’s lawyers statement in Rome regarding his poisoning is a criminal act. The only thing I can think here is that do the German authorities want to control the broadcasts of Roj TV? To be this anti-democratic must have its reasons. İf it had chosen to take a look at the Turkish media it would have easily seen that the PKK, Ocalan and war was much more televised then it is at Roj TV. Of course it would have also understood that this coverage was lacking in neutrality and consisted of lies and false news.

It is possible to speak more on the German home secretary’s decision to ban Roj TV. But I think that this much information is sufficient to understand the matter. The only part of the statement of the German home secretary that I agree with is that this decision was taken in accordance with the utmost interest of Germany. This decision was taken as a result of economic interests among the two countries. This is the only logical explanation for such a decision. The fact that the German company HDW’s 2.5 billion Euros worth deal with the Turks on the very day of this decision seems to back this up.

As a result of this decision:
a. Democracy, freedom of the press and thought has been sacrificed for economic gain.
b. Massive support has been shown to Turkish nationalism and its fierce racism.
c. Turkey’s lack of respect for the freedom of Press, thought and expression has been approved of.
d. Once again reminded us that Turkey’s accession into the EU is not targeting a democratic Turkey but a Turkey that is more economically dependent and open to exploitation.
e. Once again a blind eye has been turned to the violence and rejection policies that the Kurds are subjected to.
f. The Kurdish people’s right to information has been attacked.
g. The biggest lifeline of the Kurdish people has been attempted to be cut.

These are the results of the German home secretary’s decision. This decision is an attack on the Kurdish peoples values and identity and has therefore created a massive loss of trust towards the German government.

May 17th, 2011

Read more:

French: Roj-Tv-FR20101

Deutsch: RojTv-DE20101

English: RojTv-EN20101

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