Roj TV, a Kurdish-language satellite television station based in Denmark has been accused of supporting terrorism by the Danish attorney-general. It may lose its broadcasting license once the case goes to trial.
The prosecuting authorities claim the station has ties to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an organisation that fights for extended autonomy for the Kurdish minority in Turkey. The PKK is considered a terrorist group by the European Union, and Roj TV is accused of promoting the organization through its television programming.
According to Kurdish activists the Turkish government has been pressing the Danish government to shut down the station since 2005 when it was banned in Turkey. The Danish Radio and Television Board granted Roj TV a license in 2004. Since then, the board has twice determined that the broadcasts did not violate any Danish rules.
In Denmark, freedom of speech is valued highly. Many politicians and bloggers have argued that closing the station would be wrong.
On September 11, hundreds of Kurds marched the streets of Copenhagen in protest. One Danish-Kurdish blogger, New Black Panther Party, supported the demonstration saying Kurds have “the right to have a voice”. Another protest followed on October 19, after an initial court victory that led to re-opening of Roj TV’s bank accounts after they were frozen by police.
The Council of Europe estimates that there are 8,000-10,000 Kurds living in Denmark but there are no official statistics since Kurds are usually registered as Turkish, Iranian, or Iraqi because there is no Kurdish nation state.
A Danish progressive online portal Modkraft (Counter force) shared pictures from the demonstration where people carried banners saying, “Freedom of speech goes for Kurds too” and “Roj TV is the voice of democracy”.
On the website of Kurdisk Forum (Kudish Forum), a pressure group in Denmark that aims to keep the Turkish-Kurdish political conflict in the public eye, a press release from September 10 describes Roj TV as an important counter-balance to official Turkish news for Kurds in Turkey as well as in Denmark.
Kurdistan Commentary, an anonymous blog about “anything at all related to Kurds, Kurdistan, and Kurdish”, provides a detailed overview of the case and writes:
“The case is complicated, pitting press freedoms against illegal financing and support of terrorism. But the deck is stacked against Roj-TV with Denmark being called Europe’s weak link, bringing with it enormous pressure on Danish courts to shut the station down and prove Denmark can be a partner in the global fight against terrorism.”
The Copenhagen Post, a Danish newspaper in English, analyses the case:
“The station has become a thorn in the side for relations between Turkey and Denmark, as Turkey banned the station in 2005 and has since accused Denmark of dragging its feet in the case, by taking five years to make a ruling.”
At the end of August, an investigative journalist for Berlingske Tidende newspaper in Denmark, Karl Erik Stougaard, asked readers their opinion of the case, while highlighting that the newspaper had unearthed photos, tapes and other types of documentation that proves connections to the PKK [Da] that have otherwise been denied by Roj TV management. The comment thread on the post contains heated discussion between those who think that Kurds should have the freedom to watch a television channel in their own language, and those who think that Roj-TV is religiously biased or may even have connections with the drug trade.
There are numerous Facebook groups in support of Roj TV in various countries and languages, as well as some that are anti-Roj.
No date has been announced for the trial, and Roj TV continues to broadcast in the meantime.