Demonstrators in Copenhagen protest closure of Roj TV. Photo: Deniz Serinci
COPENHAGEN, Denmark - The Danish closure of the Kurdish Roj TV is to be challenged at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), to determine whether a ruling by Denmark’s Supreme Court to uphold the shutdown is contrary to human rights.
“The Roj TV case is related to political interests across borders. We hope that the European Court of Human Rights has a different view. Instead of connecting Roj TV to ‘terrorism,’ the court may relate it to ‘freedom of speech,’ Roj TV 's former director Imdat Yilmaz told the Danish newspaper, Arbejderen.
He also hopes that, if Roj TV is successful at the ECHR, it may thus change the political perspective on media and press freedom.
“Instead of judging the media with the Terrorism Law, we hope they will judge with the media law in the future,” Yilmaz added.
Late last month, the Danish Supreme Court upheld a ruling to revoke Roj TV’s broadcasting license, on grounds that it is a mouthpiece of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is banned in Europe, the United States and Turkey.
The case against Roj TV is historic, because it is the first time that terrorism accusations have been brought against the media in any Scandinavian country.
Many Kurds are convinced that the closure is part of a Danish-Turkish conspiracy.
Documents on WikiLeaks in November 2010 suggest that former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen had an understanding with Ankara, to close down Roj TV in exchange for Turkish support for his bid to become NATO secretary general. Rasmussen has rejected the claim.
Roj TV's lawyer, Bjorn Elmquist, is pleased that the former board of Roj TV has decided to challenge the channel’s closure.
“It is important for Danish society and human rights that the Danish Supreme Court's disqualification of Roj TV's broadcasting license is taken to the European Court of Human Rights,” Elmquist told Arbejderen.
In previous cases, the closure of television channels by Turkish authorities was overruled by the ECHR.
In 2006, the ECHR ruled that Turkey breached rights by closing the Ozgur channel for 365 days. Turkey removed the channel’s broadcasting rights, based on its anti-terrorism law. But the ECHR stated that the move, against media, was out of proportion in a democratic society.
Roj TV, which had been broadcasting from Denmark since 2004, was convicted in 2012 of supporting the PKK, whose leader is jailed in Turkey.
The Copenhagen City Court said in the 2012 verdict: "The court thinks that the television channel in a variety of programs unilaterally and indiscriminately had relayed the PKK's messages, including incitement to revolt and to join the organization.”
“The court has concluded that there is a one-sided coverage where PKK leaders talk, without making an attempt to balance the broadcasts,” it added.
Last year, Denmark’s Eastern High Court revoked Roj TV's broadcasting license and sentenced it to a fine of 10 million Danish krones (about 1.4 million euros), forcing the channel to declare bankruptcy after losing a lengthy legal battle.