Monday, October 16, 2006

Turkish Government blocks viewers from watching ROJ TV

10/14/2006 - By Nezar Ahmet

Turkish authorities have entered a new stage in their long campaign against free Kurdish television and broadcasting in Northern Kurdistan (Turkey ) by successfully blocking one of the main Kurdish television stations broadcasting from Denmark . According to a number of sources in Northern Kurdistan, the Turkish Government has successfully blocked viewers in Kurdistan from watching the Kurdish television station, ROJ TV.

Unconfirmed reports have stated that the Turkish Government appears to have cut off access to the station by jamming satellite signals. The signal has been completely blocked off in several cities throughout Northern Kurdistan such as Elih (Batman), Riha (Sanli-Urfa), Culemerg (Hakkari), Veransher and Gever (Yusekova). Other cities in both Kurdistan and western Turkey, such as Istanbul and Izmir, have reportedly been experiencing very bad signals in the past week. Experts claim that jamming transponders on a commercial satellite is a relatively easy thing to do with the available modern technology. Such a method effectively blocks satellite signals and disallows viewers from watching satellite stations cut off.

Some anonymous sources commented that the blocking of ROJ TV is very disturbing and appears to be a direct consequence of the constitutional and legal regulations that do not allow free Kurdish broadcasting in Turkey. Following recent pressures by the EU on Turkey to make democratic reform, the Turkish Government has granted limited rights for broadcasting in the Kurdish language by airing 45-minute programs on State Television every week. Recently, a representative of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) and mayor of Culemerg, Matin Tekche, met with an EU delegation and raised the issue that the beaming of ROJ TV in Kurdistan is constantly disrupted. Both the mayor and representatives of the Civil Society informed the delegation about the importance of ROJ TV for the Kurdish viewers in the area. The Turkish Government has responded by doing anything to try and shut down the satellite station and the recent developments in their satellite jamming are part of that campaign.

The Turkish Government has repeatedly demanded that Denmark revoke the Kurdish station's broadcasting license and has claimed that ROJ TV has connections with Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The Danish Government has refused to shut down ROJ TV but has agreed to investigate whether the content of its programs is in line with the Danish legislation of freedom of expression. Fifty-six mayors of the pro-Kurdish DTP have signed a letter asking the Danish Government to resist pressure from the Turkish Government on the issue of ROJ TV. The Turkish Government responded by charging all mayors with providing assistance to the PKK by signing the letter. If convicted in Turkish courts, the mayors could each face heavy fines and/or up to 15 years in prison.

ROJ TV broadcasts in nine different languages and provides a range of programs from news and happenings in Kurdistan to Kurdish music and children's shows. The station has denied having any links to the PKK and continues to maintain that their broadcasts are important for Kurdish viewers all over the world. In an official Danish statement, "In April 2006, the Danish Radio and TV Council made an official statement, responding on a complaint from the Embassy of Turkey in Copenhagen over Roj TV, that it did not find that Roj TV had broken Danish law, Roj TV's programming contained no incitement to hatred of Turkey, and as such it could see no reason whatsoever to stop Roj TV from broadcasting."

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