Defend Roj TV, the independent voice of the Kurds

Press Release from the Peace in Kurdistan campaign

Peace in Kurdistan is deeply alarmed about the threat to Roj TV, the independent Kurdish satellite television station broadcasting from its studio outside Brussels to millions of Kurdish viewers across the Middle East and Europe.

Roj TV’s broadcasts provide a vital link to their homeland for the many refugee Kurdish communities and isolated individuals living in exile in European countries.

Roj TV has its production studios in Belgium but is licensed to broadcast in Denmark. Its programmes feature news, current affairs, cultural and entertainment watched by an audience of over 40 million people.

Now following a protracted legal investigation, Danish Prosecutor Lise-Lotte Nilas is asking the Copenhagen district court to revoke Roj TV's broadcasting license alleging that it has violated Danish regulation prohibiting support for “terrorist organisations”. The court will take a decision on 19 October.

Roj TV and its predecessors known as Med TV and Medya TV have all come under continuous and intense pressure from the relentless lobbying of the Turkish authorities in Europe.

In March 2010, Roj TV’s studios were raided by Belgian security forces, accompanied by Turkish officers. The raid removed vital equipment, computers and caused damage amounting to millions of euros. Journalists were harshly manhandled and faced water cannon fired at them outside the building and some staff were arrested.

More than a hundred employees of Roj TV staged a protest in Brussels on 12 October against the investigation launched by Denmark and the demands to shut down their channel. Peace in Kurdistan stands in full solidarity with them.

The Kurdish broadcaster, which is watched in 68 countries, has been under threat for some time following the prolonged Danish investigation during which its offices were raided, its computers seized and its bank account frozen.

The action against Roj TV follows intense lobbying from the Turkish authorities to have the station closed down. The Kurdish people fear that some kind of deal has been struck between Denmark and Turkey and that another conspiracy is being hatched against them. The closure would only confirm their suspicions.

The closure of Roj TV would be an extremely severe blow to all Kurdish people and Peace in Kurdistan would like to draw attention to this threatened violation of the principle of freedom of expression.

Roj TV is the voice of the Kurds and it would be an outrageous imposition if that voice were to be silenced, especially at this vital stage in the unresolved Kurdish conflict when there are reports of talks between Ankara and Abdullah Ocalan and when ceasefire by Kurdish guerrillas remains in place.

Everyone should be sensitive to the implications of any closure Roj TV. It would send a negative message to Kurds everywhere; leading them to believe that once again Europe is not a fair and even handed broker in the conflict and that moreover it is in league with Turkey in a plan to eliminate the political freedom of the Kurdish people and the independent organisations of their movement.

Roj TV is making a vital contribution to the peace process by articulating the real concerns and aspirations of the Kurdish people and their realistic proposals for peace and democratic autonomy. Suppressing the channel will only make the achievement of peace more difficult.

The independent voice of the Kurds must not be silenced.

ENDS

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 (former MP), Gareth Peirce, Julie Christie, Noam Chomsky, Edward Albee, Mark Thomas, Bairbre de Brún MEP