Pit Schultz on Sat, 27 Mar 1999 05:20:31 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> EMPIRE NEWS: Kurds Lose TV Link

EMPIRE NEWS: Kurds Lose TV Link

By Nick Ryan LONDON, Mar 24 (IPS) - Angry Kurds are
protesting against British authorities over the closure
of the Kurdish satellite TV station MED-TV.

Their follows the decision of Britain's Independent
Television Commission (ITC) to shut down the
London-based MED-TV for 21 days because it allegedly was
broadcasting programmes "likely to encourage or incite
crime or to lead to disorder."

Turkey repeatedly had accused the TV channel of
supporting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is
fighting for a Kurdish homeland, and its guerrilla
leader Abdullah Ocalan - presently held in a Turkish

The latest turn of events is one in only a series of
obstacles which have dogged the station's four-year
history. The ITC issued two formal warnings over
breaches of its Programme Code, in November 1996 (for
two breaches relating to due impartiality) and in March
1998 (for a breach relating to incitement to crime).

In January last year, it was fined more than 140,000
dollars for three serious breaches of the impartiality
requirements of the Code. Then late in November the
station was put on six months' probation and told to
take various steps to ensure its service complies with
its licence and the Code's requirements on due
impartiality and incitement.

The recent closure is partly linked to comments made
during interviews after Turkish commandos abducted
Ocalan from Kenya.

Hikmet Tabak, the station's principal director, said
that: "We are under the microscope, unlike any other
station," and added that there was a political element
to the its closure. He also said that he had heard of
the decision via Turkish media, and not the ITC itself,
which was "entirely unacceptable."

The British Foreign Office said that was "pleased" with
the move and stressed no pressure had been put on the

But Mark Stephens, of the media law firm Stephen's
Innocent, said that MED's situation was "unprecedented."

"What other station, TV or radio," he asked,"faces calls
and pressure for its closure every single day of its
operation, over four years (referring to pressure from
Turkey to have it shut down)?"

With more than 100 protesters outside the ITC's
headquarters Tuesday, it is clear that the Kurdish
community does not view the decision as a simple legal
development. To many of them, MED-TV is affectionately
known as the "Little Nation", for its part in uniting
the Kurdish diaspora.

Crowded into their community centres, sipping endless
cups of sweet, black tea, young Kurds like Nejla
Kanteper - who set herself alight outside the Greek
embassy last month - now were without the images shown
on the satellite station.

"Every Kurdish family watched it," said Alev Sonmez, 20,
a young Kurd living in London. "It's historical. The
first time I watched it, the feeling was amazing. It was
the first time the Kurds had been together - you could
see the news in your own language; listen to Kurdish
music; and see your own, beautiful countryside."

Broadcast in several Kurdish dialects from a satellite
over central Africa, MED-TV was regarded as a unique
experiment in global broadcasting, using television to
unite a nation without a state.

>From its London base, it enjoyed production facilities
spread across Europe, and was the first and only Kurdish
satellite television station, providing 18 hours of
news, features, entertainment and films daily to 16
million Kurds living in and around "Kurdistan" (the
geographical area in the Middle East, split between
Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran).

Many young Kurds like Sonmez have not seen their
homeland since they were children, when their families
fled repression. MED-TV brought them news of
developments back home while beaming news into the
Kurdish regions.

Broadcasting on a near-24-hour basis, it also has been
an important source of information for Kurds living in
Europe and proved crucial in recent developments.

It also inspired near fanatical loyalty in its viewers
and many helpers.

For us, it's like a family," says Evin Sidar, 22, a
volunteer at MED-TV's Brussels studio. "We have never
had the chance to speak or be Kurdish in public. I
always saw European people and Turks as very modern and
myself and Kurds as peasant people.

" That's what happens when you are educated by the
Turkish system. People were ashamed to call themselves
Kurdish; some would even deny it, and described
themselves in religious terms instead. MED-TV has
changed that. It is a big part of our history."

Not surprisingly, Ankara held a different view of the
station. A spokesman for the Turkish embassy in London
said: "Our official opinion is that it is the organ of
the PKK. And it is a terrorist TV, because it is
broadcasting terrorist leaders and there are calls to
arms. It does target the territorial integrity of our

"We want it to be [permanently] banned, and we are
making very strong representations on this point."

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