Roj TV declares bankruptcy

Kurdish TV station is unable to pay the ten million kroner fines imposed on it after being found guilty of supporting the terrorist organisation PKK

Roj TV declared itself bankrupt today after losing a lengthy legal battle with the Danish state over the TV station's support of the PKK, a Kurdish separatist group that is on the EU’s list of terrorist organisations.

Copenhagen City Court found Roj TV guilty of supporting the PKK in January 2012 and fined Roj TV’s owners – Roj TV A/S and Mesopotamia Broadcast A/S – 2.6 million kroner each. The owners appealed against the decision, but last month the Eastern High Court upheld the guilty verdict, increased the fines to five million kroner each, and revoked Roj TV's broadcast licence.

Roj TV immediately lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court and requested to have the fines postponed until after the court makes a decision. Two weeks later, the Supreme Court said that it would hear the case but ruled that the fines had to be paid without delay.

Roj TV’s board stated in a press release today that the financial burden of the fines proved too much and the channel would have to close.

“We wish we could have done it more elegantly and with the genuine Kurdish fighting spirit that has always permeated our work to deliver current and informative TV with a Kurdish angle,” the board stated in the release. “But we have been forced to our knees. We can no longer promise our journalistic responsibility.”

The board also blamed Danish banks for the closure, as none were willing to let them open a bank account to hold money from contributors and supporters wanting to help pay off the fines.

“We thank all the many people who supported us over the years in spirit, courage and with financing as well as the creditors who time and again showed us patience,” the board stated. “Unfortunately we can no longer shoulder the responsibility.”

The closure of Roj  TV will likely please the Turkish authorities who have long sought to have the station shuttered because of its connection to the PKK. Since the start of the PKK’s armed struggle for an independent state in 1984, around 32,000 PKK members and almost 6,500 Turkish soldiers have been killed. A ceasefire was agreed upon earlier this year.

Far-left party Enhedslisten (EL) has supported Roj TV throughout the legal proceedings, which began in late 2005, and now argues that it is problematic that the station was closed before it had its case heard by the Supreme Court.

“It is a challenge to free speech if a TV station can be closed simply because the authorities found the reporting to be too one-sided,” EL's legal spokesperson, Pernille Skipper, told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “It ought to be up to the TV station to decide what its news coverage should consist of. This is a big problem for free speech, which is why it is very sad that the station had to close.”