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Cablegate: Turkey: Private Kurdish Tv Station Facing Fines, Closure

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E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PTER IZ TU
SUBJECT: TURKEY: PRIVATE KURDISH TV STATION FACING FINES, CLOSURE

SUMMARY
-----------------

1. (SBU) Turkey's sole Kurdish-language television station,
Gun-TV, is facing prohibitive fines from regulators for airing
reports of the activities of the pro-Kurdish DTP politicians on
the grounds that such broadcasts "encourage violence or provoke
hatred." Gun officials claim they were reporting on public
events/statements by elected officials and that other channels
broadcast the same stories (in Turkish) without being punished.
Other local journalists believe that, in addition broadcasting
in Kurdish, Gun is also facing problems because it is not
pro-AKP. If the fines are not rescinded, Gun expects to be
bankrupted in the next six months. End summary.

KURDISH BROADCASTING RED TAPE . . .
--------------------------------------------- -------------

2. (SBU) Diyarbakir-based Gun-TV, a regional channel that
reaches about one million viewers, has been the only Turkish
television station to successfully navigate the regulations that
permit Kurdish-language broadcasts. The broadcasts are limited
to four hours per week, cannot include children's programming
and must be subtitled in Turkish. The translation requirements
increase costs by about 100% and make it impossible to produce
live programming. Other media owners in the southeast have said
they would gladly broadcast in Kurdish, but the costs and fear
of state interference prevent them from doing so.

. . .TURNS INTO HARASSMENT
--------------------------------------------

3. (SBU) In a meeting on July 31, Gun's News Director, Adnan
Bilen, told us RTUK, the Radio and Television High Committee
(the national broadcast regulator), has levied three fines on
Gun for alleged violations of rules regulating broadcasters,
which state that "broadcasting should not encourage the use of
violence or provoke hatred." Each fine is YTL 120,000 (USD
104,000) and as the debt now exceeds the value of the station,
if Gun's appeals fail it will be forced to close down, probably
within six months.

4. (SBU) Two fines, according to Bilen, stem from a series of
news stories - broadcast in Kurdish and Turkish - reporting on
public statements by DTP politicians during the tense
January-February period of heightened PKK violence and a
week-long cross-border operation by Turkish forces into Iraq.
The DTP statements urged an end to the operation and calls on
both sides to suspend attacks, for negotiations, and one DTP
deputy's suggestion that confederation be considered as a
solution to the Kurdish question. The third fine resulted from
a report on a parliamentary resolution submitted by DTP deputy
Selahattin Demirtas regarding allegations by 13 Kurdish
construction workers that they were fired from a job site in
Konya because the manager wanted to hire Turkish workers. Bilen
told us TRT-3, one of the state TV channels, broadcast the same
story but has not faced any sanctions. Mainstream media outlets
also routinely broadcast DTP statements, protests, albeit with a
different slant than Gun's.

ANTI-KURDISH, PRO-AKP, OR BOTH?
--------------------------------------------- --------

5. (SBU) Bilen claimed that RTUK is harassing his station to
advance AKP's political agenda. He said that RTUK has concluded
an agreement under which the police monitor Gun's broadcasts for
any objectionable material. He added that some decisions
clearly show that the government is against Kurdish language
content. For example, he said health ministry representatives
had asked for assistance in producing a number of public service
announcements on women's health issues and while working level
experts all agreed that the messages should be in both
languages, the AKP minister rejected the idea.

6. (SBU) Faruk Balikci, president of the Diyarbakir-based
Southeast Journalists Association, told us that Gun is probably
facing harassment because of its Kurdish programming and because
of its pro-DTP bias. He suggested that as the March 2009 local
elections approach, the AKP will increase the pressure on
opposition media in Diyarbakir, where the party anticipates a
closely fought election for the DTP-held mayoralty.

GREEN

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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