On the 15th August the court-case brought against the Kurdish television broadcaster ROJ TV opened in Copenhagen. The public prosecution service charged the broadcaster with broadcasting ‘pro-terrorist organisation propaganda’, with a view to imposing a fine on the broadcaster and revoking their broadcasting licence. Before the start of proceedings a press conference took place in which, amongst others, the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party) delegate from Wan, Nazmir Gür, the Swedish Socialist MP, Hans Linde, as well as representatives from the Kurdish National Congress (KNK) and the European Federation of Kurdish Unity, had all given their view. Nazmir Gür claimed that the trial was an attempt to silence the voices of the Kurdish people. He explained that ROJ TV also represented the voice of other oppressed groups in the Middle East. Hans Linde affirmed that he had come to Copenhagen to show solidarity to the Kurdish people and that this trial represented a litmus-test for the freedom of the press and freedom of expression in Europe. A demonstration was taking place outside the court at the same time. It became apparent in the course of the proceedings that the public prosecution service had travelled to Turkey several times before the start of the hearing, in order to formally deliver their thanks to the authorities for their good cooperation. The defendants representing ROJ TV claimed this course of action to be scandalous, and requested that the court drop the charges as the public prosecution service could be seen to be untrustworthy. This request was, however, rejected by the court. Amongst the observers at the trial were two members of the Turkish secret service, MIT, alongside an additional Turkish delegation. Over and over, throughout the entire proceedings, there was heated debate between the public prosecutors and the defence. The additional dates for the hearing, from September 2011: 1st, 5th, 7th, 12th, 14th, 15th, 19th, 21st and 29th September. October 3rd, 5th, 10th, 11th, 13th, 24th, 25th and 27th. November 7th and 9th.
For the hearing on the 10th of October ROJ TV’ has called upon solicitors and judicial experts to join an international observer mission from Germany, France, Belgium, Austria, Italy and the UK. After the hearing a press conference is planned to take place.
Chronology of events On the 31st August 2010 the Danish Ministry of justice, under the advice of the state prosecution service, brought forward charges against ROJ TV A/S, Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S and METV A/S, accusing them of being in breach of article 114 of Danish penal code (promoting terrorist activity). Attorney General, Jorgen Stephen Soerensen, explained at the time that the broadcaster had promoted the activities of the group PKK, who were named on the EU-terrorist list. On the day the charges were announced all company bank accounts were frozen and the company premises were searched, with computers and other documents being confiscated. It later became apparent that the freezing of the accounts as well as the confiscation of property had been done without a judicial warrant. As a result, the local (19th October 2010) and national judicial services (6th December 2010) declared these encroachments to be unlawful. Since its foundation on March 1st 2004, ROJ TV has broadcasted using a Danish licence. Ever since which the Turkish government has exerted pressure on the Danish government, asking them to revoke this authorization. ROJ TV and the interdictions of the Germany Interior Minister As far as the repression of Kurds goes, the German law enforcement agency is clearly reading from the same hymn sheet. On 7th May 2008 the studio space of the ROJ TV-affiliated production company, VIKO, was searched in Wuppertal; their assets were seized and they were ordered to shut down. In the ban notification it was suggested that the broadcaster was glorifying armed conflict, and targeted Turkey, as well as violated “the idea of mutual understanding/respect between nations”…… The following month, on the 13th June 2008, the German Interior Minister banned ROJ TV together with the Denmark-based organisation, with the justification that they had acted for PKK, who are banned in Germany, by acting as a ‘mouthpiece’, ‘catering for its supporters in Europe through supplying them with news.’ Furthermore, he accused them of having contributed to ‘preserving the solidarity of the organisation’ and endangering the ‘peaceful co-habitation of Germans and immigrants and other immigrant groups in the Federal Republic.’ Moreover, he claimed that the broadcaster had affected ‘certain significant interests of the Federal German state.’
On the basis of a double-pronged emergency appeal from ROJ TV’s Danish operator, the federal prosecution service concluded, on 14th May 2009, in Leipzig, that the broadcaster could, for the time being, once again broadcast its programme. The judge did not share the view of the German Interior Minister on the urgency of the interdiction because, amongst other reasons, at the time of the ban the company had already been broadcasting unobjected for four years. Furthermore, he thought it was questionable whether Germany had the right to completely ban a broadcaster who was broadcasting across the whole of Europe. According to EU legislation, the nation something is being broadcast from, and not the nation it is being broadcast to, is responsible.
Concerted action against ROJ TV That the repression of Kurdish media was, and is, a coordinated attack is proven by the actions of Belgian authorities. On the 4th March 2010, police stormed the ROJ TV studios near Brussels and destroyed or confiscated technical equipment in order to hamper the production of a further television programme; or, in other words, to prevent it. Despite this the employees of the company were able to continue to broadcast programmes, but in poorer quality. ROJ TV and the new NATO Secretary General Finally, and not least, must one bring the matter of Anders Fogh Rasmussen into this ‘saga’. As the former Danish Prime-minister was running as a candidate for the position of NATO Secretary General in 2009, he came across widespread rejection from the Turkish government. This was not just down to the fact that in 2005 Rasmussen had defended the use of a caricature of Mohammed in a Danish newspaper, in the face of Turkish attacks, by saying it was proof of the freedom of the press. For the same reasons he had also resisted the pressure exerted on him by the Turkish government to revoke the broadcasting licence held by ROJ TV. Only after extreme pressure on the Turkish government and, finally, the intervention of US President Barack Obama himself, was Turkish President Abdullah Gul able to be persuaded. For this however, Rasmussen was forced to agree to concessions with regard to ROJ TV- what happened? From August 2009 the new NATO Secretary General was named Ander Fogh Rasmussen. (ROJ TV/ANF, 1.15.8/Azadi)
Translated from German original by PIK, UK
* AZADÎ e.V., Rechtshilfefonds für Kurdinnen und Kurden In Deutschland – Graf-Adolf-Str. 70A, 40210 Düsseldorf, 0211-830 29 08, email:[email protected]
For more information about the observer mission from UK contact
Peace in Kurdistan Campaign: Campaign for a political solution of the Kurdish question
Estella Schmid – Tel: 020 7586 5892 – mobile 07846666804
Rachel Bird – Tel: 020 7272 4131
Patrons: Lord Avebury, Lord Rea, Lord Dholakia, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Alyn Smith MEP, Hywel Williams MP, Elfyn Llwyd MP, John Austin, Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Margaret Owen OBE, Mark Thomas, Bairbre de Brún MEP