Britain suppresses Kurdish TV station

May 5, 1999

By Norm Dixon

Britain's Independent Television Commission (ITC) on April 23 revoked the licence of Med TV, the satellite television station watched by millions of Kurds in Kurdistan, Turkey, the Middle East and Europe. "The decision is undoubtedly political and is inspired by the UK government's relationship with Turkey, its NATO ally", Med TV said.

Med TV operates out of Britain and produces programs in Belgium. Since 1995, its Kurdish- and Turkish-language programs (and weekly English and Arabic programs) have been beamed to an estimated 10-15 million people. The station is funded by contributions from the Kurdish exile community in Europe.

Turkish and European governments have attempted to shut down or restrict the station on many occasions because of the key role it plays in informing and organising Kurds. Kurds face heavy penalties in Turkey if they are discovered watching Med TV.

The ITC suspended Med TV's licence for 21 days on March 22 following the station's screening of live interviews in which Kurdish leaders urged people to take action against the Turkish government's abduction of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. The ITC's decision was based on a transcript supplied by the Turkish government in which a Kurdish rebel allegedly stated: "Our patriotic masses in Europe should not cross the boundaries of democratic measures ... The Kurdish people in Turkey, however, should adopt all kinds of fighting methods without losing any time."

In a breathtaking example of double standards, the ITC claimed on April 23 that the station's broadcasts contained "biased reporting ... incitement to crime and a lack of impartiality". Yet, Britain's state and privately owned TV networks churn out daily US/NATO propaganda to justify the bombardment of Serbia (and Iraq). News broadcasts are laden with the bellicose threats of violence from Blair and Clinton.

While the British government cynically manipulates popular concern over the plight of the oppressed people of Kosova in order to wage war, the British media are silent about Ankara's vicious war against the Kurds. For the British government's media regulatory body to demand that the Kurdish people's only media outlet be "unbiased" is not only unjust but contributes to the Turkish government's murderous campaign by "ethnically cleansing" the air waves.

Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit welcomed Med TV's closure and said it was the result of diplomatic pressure. Turkey's President Suleyman Demirel, in Washington for the NATO summit, said on April 26 that Turkey is "trying to cut off the foreign ties of the PKK".

Demirel said that Ankara is also pressing the German government to close down the Germany-based Kurdish newspaper, Ozgur Politika, which has a large readership in Europe and on the internet. "Med TV was inciting murder, and that newspaper is doing the same thing", Demirel told the Anatolian News Agency.

Letters protesting against the censorship of Med TV should be sent to the ITC, 33 Foley St, London, W1P 7LP UK, or faxed to 0011 44 171 396 7800.

Meanwhile, the PKK has vowed to intensify its struggle for national self-determination following the gains made by the far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) in Turkey's April 18 general election. On April 21, MHP spokesperson Ata Turkoglu vowed that his party's 129 MPs would vote for Ocalan's execution if he is convicted by Turkey's juryless security court. "We want this to happen as soon as possible after the verdict", he said.

"It is much easier for the death penalty to be approved now", warned one of Ocalan's defence lawyers, Ahmet Zeki Ockoglu.

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