As Roj TV’s licence suspended, Turkey accuses Scandinavia of harbouring terrorists

Station’s failure to turn in requested material leads to two-month ban; Turkish PM points to possible “diplomatic” solution to long-standing conflict

Roj TV, the Copenhagen-based Kurdish station that was fined earlier this year for violating Denmark’s anti-terror laws, has been stripped of its broadcast licence for two months.

The national TV and radio board, Radio- og tv-nævnet, has been investigating the channel since January based on allegations that the channel serves as a mouthpiece for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organisation by the US, Canada and the EU. Although the channel was found guilty of violating anti-terror laws in January, it held on to its broadcast licence. Shortly thereafter, however, the TV and radio board re-opened its investigation.

The board demanded that Roj TV turn over documents and video tapes of its broadcasted programmes. The station only turned over about half of the requested files and documents, leading to the two-month ban on its broadcast license. The TV and radio board said, however, that the programming that was turned over for inspection “did not incite hate” and therefore the station could not lose its licence on that ground.  

Roj TV has been given two months to hand over the remainder of the requested material, but according to board chairman Christian Scherfig, even if the station does not comply it will be still be able to send its signal again. Scherfig warned however, that the board would continue to pursue Roj TV.

“Roj TV should expect that we will institute stricter supervision and perhaps reassess our verdict,” Scherfig told the Ritzau news bureau.

The investigations into Roj TV are what led to the September 18 arrest of eight individuals on charges of financing terror. The arrestees, seven of whom are being held on remand, are suspected of collecting and arranging money both for the PKK and Roj TV.

Roj TV has long been a sore spot in the the relationship between Turkey and Denmark. The Turkish government has long viewed Roj TV as the mouthpiece for the PKK, and Turkey has repeatedly made formal complaints about the station. Denmark’s decision to prosecute Roj TV on terror charges was revealed by WikiLeaks as being a reward for Turkey’s support of the appointment of former Danish PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen as NATO secretary general in 2009.

The PKK was founded by Kurdish separatists in 1978 as a movement to establish an autonomous Kurdistan. Kurdish militants have often clashed with Turkish security forces. In 1984, the PKK called for an all-out Kurdish uprising and stepped up its attacks on government targets. The ongoing conflicts are estimated to have claimed more than 40,000 lives.

The past few months have seen some of the most intense violence in the long struggle, and just yesterday, Turkish PM Tayyip Erdogan responded to pressure to end the bloodshed by opening the door to renewed talks with the PKK.

“There is a military dimension to this, a security dimension which is separate and will continue,” Erdogan said, according to Pakistani newspaper The News International. “But beside this there is a diplomatic, socio-economic and psychological dimension.”

Speaking to Reuters, Erdogan said that Scandinavian countries share in the blame for the increased violence.

“Terrorist leaders walk free in these countries, and they allow them to collect financial aid in the streets, creating a resource worth millions of euros," Erdogan said. "Scandinavian countries literally act as accessories to the terrorist organisation.”