Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Danish-Kurdish satellite TV

Dear Martin Selsøe

I'm writing to you on the basis of your article in today's Information, "Danish-Kurdish TV has a terrorist past", with the first page trailer: "Kurdish TV-channel incited (opfordrede in Danish) violence from Great Britain. Now it sends from Copenhagen". At the beginning with bold (I don't know what they are called in English, sorry; manchett in Swedish, one of my mother tongues), you say: "Kurdish satellite channel incited violence from Great Britain and had terrorists on the Board in France. Now it sends from Denmark, but if the terrorist sympathies are intact is debatable, professor says".

This professor is Amir Hassanpour, Iranian Kurd, one of the most respected researchers on Kurdish language and media in the world, and a good friend of mine - we have written together, and he also has an article in the volume that my husband edited for my 60th birthday (and I'm writing in english so that Amir understands - I cc this letter to him). I believe that what Amir is reported as saying in the article itself is more or less what I believe he thinks, and it is reported fairly. But the quote above is in my opinion made to look as if Amir had said it all, i.e. that he had directly said that Med-TV incited violence and that the Board included terrorists. I think that this is most unfortunate because it gives more credibility to these claims which are ideologically following the line that the Turkish state has, in negatively labelling acts and people that may not do more than ask for the Kurds the type of linguistic, cultural and educational human rights that Turkish-speakers in Turkey (or, Danish-speakers in Denmark) take for granted for themselves. In addition, of course, the trailor and titling of the article are not formulated in as balanced a way that I would expect from Information. And saying in the picture text that the Danish police is investigating the issue "on the basis of evidence (beviser in Danish) collected by the Turkish Embassy" seems to imply that this "evidence" is trustworthy, without saying a word about Turkish state terrorism or even hinting at the fact that information from the Turkish state in relation to what their legal reforms (which certainly are a step forward, no doubt about that) have or have not achieved, has been seriously biassed, to formulate it nicely. I will attach one of my articles which shows this clearly.

I have been interviewed (two one-hour programmes, aired early this autumn, 2005) by Hassan Ghazi (whom I know since many years from Sweden where he was political refugee) for ROJ-TV, in Brussels, and so has my husband, professor Robert Phillipson (Copenhagen Business School). He spoke about European (Union) language policy in general (his latest book is called English-Only Europe? Challenging language policy). I spoke about linguistic human rights, in general, and specifically in relation to Turkey, a research area where I am without any doubt one of the world's leading experts, with many books, and work with the UN, UNESCO and OSCE. We talked to several dozen ROJ-TV staff during our two days in Brussels and discussed their ideologies and policies, programmes and connections, etc, in depth.

Obviously the whole issue is extremely complex. The deeply ambivalent role of the USA, both in relation to the Kurds in different countries and in the whole issue of who, how and why defines terrorism and what is done in the name of "fighting" it, and to what extent Denmark and Britain are more or less uncritically following a US agenda would minimally need to be mentioned.

I would appreciate it very much if you, for a follow up, did an interview with Robert and me, on linguistic and cultural (lack of) rights of the Kurds in Turkey. We are at home until Wednesday morning, then in Paris at a conference until Saturday evening; we are away most of the following week too (Robert in Brussels, me in Helsinki), but then we are in Denmark for most of December.

Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
Dr Tove Skutnabb-Kangas
Roskilde University, Dept of Languages and Culture, Denmark
Åbo Akademi University Vasa, Dept of Education, Finland
Use only home address: Tronninge Mose 3, DK-4420 Regstrup, Denmark
home page: http://akira.ruc.dk/~tovesk/


At 25/11/05 3:03 pm, Anonymous Martin Selsoe Sorensen said...

Dear Tove Skutnabb-Kangas and Amir Hassanpour,

Thank you very much for your extensive reaction to my article. I'm glad (but not surprised) that you expect my quotes from Amir Hassanpour to be correct and fair. Regarding the 'manchett' or maybe sub-headline I don't share your interpretation. In Danish press the sub-headline is a very short summary of the whole content of the article. It is meant as a teaser to attract readers and can as such not include all nuances and details. Readers cannot and should not expect to get the full picture from reading the short introduction and I don't think they usually do so. The text is not meant to imply that the first two facts/allegations are Amir Hassanpours opinion, and to be honest I can't see that it could be understood that way.

Regarding the issue of Kurdish rights in general I'm very well aware of the seriuos problems in Turkey and have reported on them several times. Mainly in connection with visits to the Diyarbakir region. I don't think
it serves the interests of the Kurdish people to link their rightfull claim to cultural and linguistic rights to the fate of a tv-station. So at the moment we will not go into that discussion, but I will save your contact details and maybe get back to you, when we do.

Best regards,
Martin Selsoe Sorensen

Martin Selsøe Sørensen
St. Kongensgade 40 C
1006 København K

Tlf.:+45 33 69 61 03
Fax: +45 33 69 61 10
Mobil: +45 27 28 89 12

At 25/11/05 3:05 pm, Anonymous Tove Skutnabb-Kangas said...

Dear Martin
thanks for your swift reply. As you might expect, we don't quite agree on the interpretation possibilities and the ideologically coloured turns in your article - but there is nothing doing. (I am on the Honourary Board of the international journal Discourse and Society so I am pretty used to analysing the various readings in discourses...).

But I do think that it is important to see the link from the Kurds'legitimate demands on linguistic and cultural human rights, and the fate of Kurdish-language media. Freedom of speech (and thought) and the right to information (preferably in a language one understands) are among basic human rights as you know.

best regards


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