A police raid was carried out at the Roj TV studios in Belgium on Thursday (4 March). Turkey has previously shown intensive efforts to silence the television channel broadcasting in Kurdish because of its connection to the militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
The raid started in the morning. Until now, more than ten people have been arrested, among them Roj TV director Gülşen Emsiz, journalists Burhan Erdem, Devrim Akçadağ and Murat Yaklav. As reported by Fırat News Agency (ANF), employees were not allowed into the Roj studios and the search was still going on in the afternoon. A statement of the Federal Prosecution was expected for the evening.
Up to 25 different places allegedly connected with the PKK were subject to police raids at the same time.
Struggle in Europe
Both the PKK's struggle with the military and publications regarding the Kurdish question seen as "propaganda" by the judiciary may be heavily fined in Turkey. While the Foreign Ministry tries to block television broadcasts via satellite, people appearing on those channels may face trials.
As the result of Turkish initiatives, the broadcasting of Med TV and Medya TV was recently blocked in England and France.
Roj TV started broadcasting in Denmark in 2004 and the Foreign Affairs Department applied for the cancellation of the broadcasting license. Former Land Forces Commander Yaşar Büyükanıt and then Deputy Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ had also said that the TV channel should be closed.
In a joint press conference of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Erdoğan wanted a journalist from Roj TV being removed from the hall. Erdoğan left himself since the journalist was not excluded from the press conference. The topic was brought up again by Turkey when Rasmussen was to be appointed as Secretary General of NATO.
Sanctions for speeches
On the other hand a publication ban is difficult to impose in European countries where freedom of expression for non-violent contents is granted. The Denmark broadcasting authorities rejected the application to ban Roj TV because violence was not encouraged by the channel's broadcastings in their opinion. That led to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries.
Several people faced trial for their speeches given on Roj TV at different times, notably Dicle ('Tigris') News Agency (DİHA) representative in Van Sıddık Güler, mayor of the closed Democratic Society Party (DTP) Hüseyin Kalkan, Mahmut Alınak, Head of the Tunceli Bar Association Özgür Ulaş Kaplan, Labour Party (EMEP) Provincial Chair Hüseyin Tunç and Diyarbakır Human Rights Association (İHD) Branch President Selahattin Demirbaş.
Furthermore, 53 DTP mayors stood trial for a letter written to Rasmussen against the closure of Roj TV.
Cumhuriyet newspaper laid off writer Erdoğan Aydın because he had given a speech on Roj TV.
Belgium imposed a € 4 million tax fine on the Kurdish television channel last year. A couple of days ago, the German Federal Administrative Court transferred the Roj TV file to the European Court of Justice due to alleged "propaganda for the PKK". The TV channel is allowed to continue broadcasting until the decision of the European court. (EÜ/VK)