RojTV and the silence of Europe

The decision by Eutelsat to stop broadcasting RojTV as from Sunday night tells a lot about direct and indirect pressure. But also about the little freedom enjoyed by the press in Europe as well as in the Middle East.

Since the formal press release by the Paris-based group, announcing the end of the broadcast, there has been virtually no reaction at all. That is no reaction from European journalists or media. True, Reporters Without Borders has published a press release and so has the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), but no commentators have felt the duty – yes the duty, ethical and political duty – to write a column about the decision which creates a dangerous precedent.

Indeed the Danish court which has tried RojTV had deemed not necessary to ask for the closure or even the suspension of the Kurdish satellite channel. It has fined RojTV which in turn has appealed the ruling.

It is embarrassing and shameful the deafening silence from other media. As if the decision by Eutelsat could not one day land at their doorstep. Because what is at stake here is the unilateral and discretional decision by one company (Eutelsat) to prevent one channel to broadcast. But also the fact that indeed what is contested to RojTV is to be sidelined with “one part”, i.e. the Kurdish liberation movement.

The discussion about ‘impartial’ reporting would be endless. What is clear is that most media are sidelined with one or another group, faction, lobby, government you name it.

What about Italy former prime minister Berlusconi? He owns more than 6 channels all venerating him as some sort of saint… And RAI, the Italian (namely) state television duly bowed to PM Berlusconi (with rare exceptions, often punished with censorship).

The big difference though is that while Berlusconi abused his power and actually used the channels he owned for his personal gaining, RojTV is trying to give Kurds – who are denied any possibility to freely benefit from their language, cultural heritage, politics, and are instead constantly beaten down by the Turkish state which indeed tries to silence them with any means necessary – a voice. If it needs added, the repression and pressure RojTV journalists and workers have to face with every day is under everybody’s eyes, should anyone want to spend some time reading about raids, arrests, searches, fines etc. which hit the channel since its establishment.

RojTV has played a crucial role in ultimately keeping the Kurdish people and their hopes alive. Only through RojTV were the Kurds (and not just them) able to know what was going on in Turkey as well as in the Middle East. The massacre by the Turkish army in the Roboski village on 28 December which left 35 civilians dead, was first reported by RojTV. Or none would have possibly known what had happened, or very late.

In other words, RojTV has played the role of the “watchdog”, reporting what otherwise would have never hit the world’s attention. Indeed it was not just about breaking news of massacres, repression, political police operation orchestrated by the state (of which there is unfortunately plenty in Turkey) but providing that link, that red thread between Kurds in the diaspora (who were forced to leave their country because of the repression in most cases) and the people who still live in Kurdistan. Culture had always an important place in the channel’s broadcasting.

So RojTV is sidelined. Yes, but not for its profit. Sidelined for truth and for the right of the Kurds to have their voice heard.

For Eutelsat to severe this lifeline, to act as a judge of what can and what cannot be said, it is as dangerous as the lobotomised silence of the European media.