Former president of national Welsh party Plaid Cymru Dafydd Iwan has recently returned from Copenhagen, where he went as an international observer to monitor a hearing of the Roj TV trial. He offers us reflections on the trial and Danish-Turkish collusive efforts to shut the broadcaster down, in his blog:
THE ROJ-TV CASE IN COPENHAGEN
It may be under the radar for the British press and media, but the court case currently taking place in Copenhagen where ROJ-TV is appealing against the decision to close it down is something we cannot ignore. There has never been such a blatant attack on the freedom of the press and the right of the public for information. ROJ-TV is the only Kurdish TV service, watched by 18 million people in Turkey, and millions more in the Kurdish diaspora. It is a comprehensive service, broadcast in all the Kurdish dialects, as well as Turkish, English and Arabic, including 20% of artistic and cultural programming and hours of children’s programmes, as well as a full news and current affairs schedule. It is unapologetically pro-Kurdish, and that is why the Turkish government is determined to silence it. But the sad thing is that the Government of Denmark – a country which prides itself on its open and inclusive democratic society – has been dragged in to do the dirty work of the Turkish authorities.
There have been attempts to close the station down by the Turkish government in the past, but the Danish courts have resisted any attempts to use it for political purposes. What makes this case different is the admission by Turkey that they made a deal with the Danish government to have the station closed in return for Turkey’s vote to instate the former Danish PM, Anders Rasmussen as Director General of NATO!
The prosecution’s case is that ROJ-TV has links with the PKK, the body which is leading the guerrilla war against the Turkish government, and which was officially listed by George Bush as a “terrorist” organization following the 9-11 attacks. But the case is totally denied by ROJ-TV, who have known for years that they are being closely monitored, and that the Turkish authorities think nothing of imprisoning even elected MPs on the grounds that they “support the cause of terrorists”. At this very moment, one of the most respected politicians in Turkey, the popular and peace-campaigning Mayor of Diyarbakir, Osman Baydemir faces a possible 28 years in prison for supporting the Kurdish people and their language.
Akif Wan, the London Representative of the Kurdistan National Congress, has first hand experience of the ruthless nature of the Turkish “justice system”. He was a teacher in Turkey, but was accused of teaching Kurdish propaganda to his students, and spent 7 years in a Turkish prison during the 80s; he is now barred from returning to his homeland, so has dedicated his life to work for the Kurdish cause in exile. 19-year old Firat Tas has just returned from helping the earthquake victims in Van. Even there, he and his friends were arrested and spent hours in custody on suspicion of being “spies” for the Kurdish movement. ROJ-TV is the Kurdish people’s only defence against such extreme oppression of human rights, and the only TV service which tells the Kurds the facts about what is going on in Turkey and the world today. We must defend it, or we will all suffer.