A Stateless Nation's Quest
for Sovereignty in the Sky

"Paper presented at the Freie Universitat Berlin, Nov. 7, 1995"

By Dr. Amir Hassanpour
Assistant Professor. Comrnunication Studies, Concordia University

Abstract

I. The Kurds

II. MED-TV: A Brief Account

The Launching of MED-TV
Objectives
Ownership and Finances
Organization
Programming

III. The Turkish State and MED-TV
A. Violence Against the Media as a Form of State Terrorism
B. Coercion by Non-Violent Means: From Folkstone to London
C. Telecommunication and Satellite Sabotage

IV. The Kurds and MED-TV

The Creation of a National Audience
Cultural Contact: Forging Televisual Solidarity
MED-TV as a Language Academy.
Building Civil Society and a Public Sphere in the Sky

V. Turkey, England and the European Unlon

"Satellite Revolution," Democracy and Sovereignty

Bibliography


Abstract:

The state and the market have, so far, been the only actors in direct satellite broadcasting. The launching ot MED-TV, a daily satellite TV channel, by the Kurdish community in Europe is the first case of the access of stateless nations and minorities to transnational television. The Kurds are one of the world's largest stateless nations, forcibly divided betveen Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria with a sizeable diaspora in Europe and the Caucasus. In Turkey and Syria, they are denied communication rights, including the right to broadcast, in their language. MED-TV, licensed in and uplinked from England, is beamed to West Asia (including Kurdistan), Europe and North Africa, and has dramatically changed the balance of forces in favour of the Kurds. To many Kurds, it is the realization of their dream of sovereignty, albeit in the sky. Turkey has reacted by launching extensive diplomatic effort to persuade Britain to revoke the licence, and has invoked the European Convention on Trans-Frontier Broadcasting to close down the Kurdish channel. Ankara has also used violence against the viewing audience and dish owners and sellers, and has used, for the first tirne in the history of satellite broadcasting, jamming. Turkey accuses MED-TV of being the mouthpiece of a "terrorist" organisation, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK, in Kurdish), which airns at achieving independence for Kurdistan. This paper provides a brief history of the Kurdish channel, Turkey's offensive against it, Britain's position, and the political and policy implications of this conflict for international comrnunication.

Reporting on the first Kurdish satellite television channel, MED-TV launched in May 1995 in England, the Associated Press wrote, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without homeland." The Kurds indeed do have a homeland called Kurdistan, but it was forcibly divided among the neighbouring states of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria in the aftermath of World War I. Numbering between 23 to 30 million, they are often referred to as the largest stateless nation in the world. More than fifteen million Kurds in Turkey and Syria are deprived of the right to communicate in their language. In Turkey, listening to transborder Kurdish broadcasts has legally been considered an act against the territorial integrity of the state. It is not surprising, therefore, that even before MED-TV began its three-hour daily transmissions, the Turkish government launched a large-scale diplomatic offensive in order to abort it.

While MED-TV has opened a new chapter in the history of broadcasting, Turkey's pressure on the British government and its broadcasting regulatory body, the Independent Television Commission, to revoke the channel's licence sets a precedent, a dangerous one, for the state's violation of linguistic, cultural and communication rights of minorities, and silencing of dissident views. If Britain chooses to implement Turkish policy it will be the first case of political repression of satellite broadcasting.

The technology of satellite broadcasting has its own dynamics. It empowers the stateless Kurdish nation to establish its cultural and linguistic borders, a right denied by the Middle Eastem states and the international regime which was established in the post-World War I years. Moreover, it has the potential to create a public forum or rather a "public sphere" in a society where state coercion has pushed debate into the underground and the privacy of the individual mind.

This paper begins with a brief account of the Kurds, their distribution in the Middle East and Europe, and their status as a non-state nation. The next section is about MED-TV's history, its organization, and prograrnming. Section three provides information on Ankara's repression of the television program in Turkey and Europe. The concluding part deals with the political implications of Turkey's practice for Europe and the evolving international communication system.


I. The Kurds

Enumerated at 20 million speakers in 1986, the Kurdish speech community ranked fortieth among the world's several thousand languages (Leclerc 1986:55, 138). This relative numerical strength is, however, undermined by the division of the Kurdish people and their homeland, Kurdistan, among four neighbouring countries of Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria and the dispersed communities in the Caucasus, northeast Iran, and Central Asia. Since the 1960s, around half a million Kurds have resettled in Europe, predominantly in Germany, as guest labourers and political refugees. The following provides a moderate estimate of Kurdish population:

Kurdish Population Estimates for 1991
Country Population Kurds %
Turkey 57'000'000 10'800'000 19
Iraq 18'000'000 4'100'000 23
Iran 55'000'000 5'500'000 10
Syria 12'500'000 1'000'000 8
USSR   500'000  
Elsewhere *   700'000  
Total 22'500'000
Source: McDowall (1992:12)

* The Kurdish population of Europe is estimated to be between 500 to 700 thousands. Kurdish estimates of their population are much higher, ranging from 30 to 40 million.

Kurds are the fourth largest ethnic people of the Middle East, outnumbered by Arabs, Turks and Persians. Although a stateless nation today, they have a long history of self-rule under Kurdish mini-dynasties and mini-states (principalities), some of which survived until the mid-nineteenth century when they were overthrown during three decades of military operations undertaken by Ottoman Turkey and Iran.

Contrary to media and many academic accounts, the Kurds are not a tribal people. For centuries, Kurdish social organization has been quite diverse including tribal, transhumant, settled rural (feudal), and urban ways of life. Today, almost half of the population lives in urban areas including several cities, each numbering more than half a million.

While their folklore, costume, music, and language have been enriched by thousands of years of cultural contact with neighbouring peoples -- Armenians, Assyrians, Jews, Arabs, Turks, Persians and others -- Kurdish culture is distinct. The Kurds have created a rich oral literature and a five-century old literary tradition. Kurdish is, unlike Turkish and Arabic and like Persian and Armenian, an Indo-European language, with four major dialect groups, two of which (Kurmanji and Sorani) have experienced considerable standardisation The majority are Muslims of Sunni faith but some are followers of lesser known native religions.

The centralist, etatist states of Turkey (since the mid-1920s), Iran (especially from the 1920s to 1979), Iraq, and Syria (especially since 1962) have pursued policies of linguicide and ethnocide in order to assimilate the Kurds into the officially sanctioned Turkish, Arab and Persian languages and cultures. In Turkey, the very name Kurd was eliminated from the official and public discourse, and speaking in the language was considered an act of secessionism. The Kurds were denied communication rights in their language. This violation of rights included the right to listen to Kurdish broadcasts from other countries. Iran and Iraq have allowed state broadcasting, both radio (since the 1950s) and television (since the 1970s), in Kurdish. This policy aimed at neutralising foreign and clandestine broadcasting targeted at the Kurds. A relatively unknown trend in Kurdish history is the long struggle for building a native tongue media culture under conditions of repression.

Kurdistan is the site of one of the most persistent nationalist movements of this century. Refusing to negotiate autonomy with the Kurds, the Turkish, Iraqi and Iranian states have imposed a destructive war on the Kurds. The resistance movement in Turkey includes a combination of forces ranging from parliamentarians to publishers, writers, students, workers and peasants. The Kurdistan Workers Party, better known in its Kurdish acronyms as PKK, has no doubt a leading position. This organization has challenged the Turkish state since 1984. Its guerrilla army has conducted the longest armed struggle in Kurdish history. Turkey, its Western allies and the mainstream media call the PKK a "terrorist" organization.1 Western countries such as the U.S., Germany, Britain, France and Canada sell arms to Turkey and many provide training and other military support. Turkish authorities claim that MED-TV is a mouthpiece of PKK.


II. MED-TV: A Brief Account

Calling on the Kurds, in the 1880s, to unite and form their own independent state, the Kurdish poet Haji Qadiri Koyi (1817?-1897) wrote in one of his celebrated poems:

A hundred epistles and odes are not worth a penny [any more]
Newspapers and magazines have now become valuable and respected.2

The first Kurdish newspaper, Kurdistan, was published in Cairo in 1898, a year after Haji Qadir's death. It played a profound role in fostering national awakening among the literate. The paper raised the status of the Kurdish language at a time when printing and its cherished product, journalisrn, were monopolized by the dominant languages, Arabic, Persian and Turkish.

However, the literati of the tirne were no more than small circles; they could hardly form a "reading public" as it had emerged in Europe since the latter part of the eighteenth century. The journal signalled the beginnings of transition from the old aristocratic national feeling to a modern, rniddle-class nationalism. It was also a transition from the centuries-old scribal culture to a print culture. Compared with this historical rupture, the launching of MED-TV is even more dramatic. In the 1890s, Kurdistan was divided between two countries, Ottoman Turkey and Iran. It is now redivided among four highly centralist and statist states. Govemment violence against the Kurdish media, their staff and audiences is much more extensive today. Moreover, Turkish diplomatic power is more effective in the Europe ofthe 1990s. Turkey has declared MED-TV as an adversary. Thus, born into a more troubled era of Kurdish history, the television channel faces serious challenges.

The Launching of MED-TV

According to the founders of MED-TV, this project "evolved in response to calls over recent years, particularly from the Europe-wide Kurdish diaspora, for a television station of its own."3 Feasibility work began in May 1994, leading to the establishment of MED Broadcasting Ltd. later in the fall. On October 14, the Independent Television Commission in London licensed NIED-TV to provide a satellite television service from the United Kingdom for a period of ten years. The licence requires the program service "to comply with the requirements ofthe ITC Codes on programme content, advertising standards and practice and program sponsorship." The licensee should observe "due impartiality in the treatment of matters of political controversy or public policy."4

Test transmissions, for a period of three hours a day, started on March 30, 1995 with taped programs including music, animations, films and a number of live debates from its studio in Brussels. Normal broadcasting began on May 15 during the prime time in Kurdistan (16:00-19:00 GMT). On October 1, transmission time was doubled from three to six hours daily between 16:00 and 22:00 GMT. Plans were underway to increase broadcasting time to 24 hours.

Objectives

According to MED-TV, the Kurds claim descent through one of the oldest civilizations, the Medes of Western Asia (MED-TV derives its name from the Mede people).

"Kurdish identity is still defined by its own distinct language, culture and traditions." Yet the Kurds, "numbering 35 million worldwide...are the largest nation in the world today without a recognized homeland. The concept of Kurdish satellite television is therefore innovative and unique... For the first time in history, the Kurdish people can now see their own lives, their own reality, reflected on television screens across the world. MED-TV hopes to assist in the regeneration of the Kurdish language and the identity of this dispossessed nation whilst informing the Kurdish public of the world, national and international events." 5

The Kurdish Foundation Trust, which provides financial assistance pursues the following aims:

To assist in the development of the cultural identity of the Kurdish people and the Kurdish language throughout the world; to establish, promote and maintain media facilities and resources to educate and inform the Kurdish people; and to work for the relief of poverty and suffering amongst the Kurdish people.6

Ownership and Finances

MED-TV "is owned by private investors... [and] owes its birth and survival to the Kurdish people, and in particular, to the continuing support of the Kurdish business sector across Europe."7 It also receives financial assistance from the Kurdish Foundation.

By mid-August 1995, the project had cost $3.2 million (£2 million) and Med Broadcasting Ltd. had enough resources to stay on the air for another year or two.8

Organization

MED-TV is based in central London but most of the production work is undertaken in other European cities. The main production studio is in Brussels. There is also a studio in Berlin and one in Stockholm. The latter produces most of the children's programming, and provides some dubbing and subtitling services. A studio in Moscow specializes in dubbing and subtitling.

Uplinked from London, Eutelsat II F2 widebeam satellite satcasts programming to Europe, North Africa and West Asia (transponder No. 37, vertical polarisation; frequency 11.575, audio 6.65). News and some of the programs are uplinked live from Brussels studios directly to London. MED-TV has begun extending viewing capacity through the cable networks of Europe.

Programming

Having suffered from harsh policies of ethnocide since the mid-1920s, the visual and audiovisual record of Kurdish culture is impoverished. Filling the long hours of broadcasting with cultural and entertainment programming is, therefore, a challenge. The existing documentary and feature films in Kurdish would hardly fill one week of MED-TV broadcasting time.9 MED-TV is, thus, faced with the task of creating and enriching the audiovisual heritage by drawing on national and international resources. Given limited resources and experience, it is remarkable that most of the programming is produced in-house. Dubbing and subtitling are costly and time-consuming undertakings. Drawing on an intemational, multilingual repertoire of audiovisual material, dubbing requires the services of many qualified translators. Voice-over, less expensive and less attractive to audiences, is used extensively. Due to the shortage of Kurdish translators familiar with both their own language and other (mainly Western) languages, texts are sometimes translated into Turkish first and retranslated into Kurdish. The following provides some detail on the daily programming during the first week of regular broadcasting (Monday, May 15, 1995):

19:00 Animations
19:10 "Good day, teacher," Classroom setting, Kurdish language lessons for children.
19:26 The day's programs
19:30 News
19:50 "The names that never die." Story or two nationalist leaders from the 1930s.
20:10 Film Dîlan, a tragic love story Turkish film, Swedish director
21:40 News
22:00 Close

By October, broadcasting time doubled and programming developed dramatically. The following is an "approximate programme break down for November" (MED-TV Programme Guide, November 1995).

ProgramHours% of Total
Youth5:003.0
Children's 22:5012.0
Music22:3012.5
Culture/Arts 19:35 11.0
Filrn/Drama19:0010.5
History/Archeology8:50 5.0
Documentary7:20 4.0
Society/Religion8:004.5
Debate/Discussion19:5011.0
Politics/Current Affairs 10:356.0
News 35:2520.0
Total 178:55 99.5

Children's programming, produced in-house at the Stockholm studio,10 was expanded to 45 minutes a day. It included educational features such as Good Day, Teacher (Kurdish language lessons in a class setting) and painting lessons. The program began with a song which promoted the slogan "read, write and speak in Kurdish." The teacher used books and other print material and wrote on the board with a piece of chalk. Since the Kurds are denied the right to native tongue education in Turkey, Iran and Syria, the conduct of such a classroom in Turkey, for example, would be considered an act of terrorism aimed at violating the principle of "indivisibility" of the Turkish state. Other programs included storytelling, competition, cartoon and animations, and drama series (e.g., an Anglo-Russian production of Shakespeare, the Animated Tales and feminist Robin Hood series Maid Marian and Her Sherry Men.)

Youth programming included a weekly 40 minute feature, Youth (Civan) and a weekly 45 minute quiz show. Music programming was diverse including these weekly features: 40-minute concerts, a 20-minute music slot, the 45-minute Serçavan ('Upon Our Eyes', which answered letters, and played music requested by the audience) and S,ox û S,eng (Jolly), a 2-hour and 40-minute live show with Kurdish and non-Kurdish performers, a studio audience, and home audience phone calls. There were also two fortnightly features, one devoted to classical music and the other to folk singing by the members of the public interested in singing on television.

Music and cultural programming plays a prominent role in the revival of a nation subjected to state-sponsored policies of ethnocide. The culture/art programming included seven weekly features such as debates on culture, comic theatre sketches, Zazaki music, art and culture, poetry reading, the lives and works of poets, etc. There were four weekly features related to the archeology and history of Kurdistan, including biographies of historical figures, archeological records, historical events, etc.

Film and drama features have brought to the Kurds, for the first time on television (especially in Turkey and Syria), a variety of full length and serialized films and theatrical plays aired in their native tongue. In the absence of a rich Kurdish film culture, much of the material was dubbed works such as Charlie Chaplin films, a new production of Maxim Gorky's The Mother, BBC classic drama series such as Robinson Crusoe, Anna Karenina, The Diary of Anne Frank, War and Peace, Madame Bovary, Gulliver in Lilliput, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Crime and Punishment.

Documentaries included features mostly bought from various broadcasting corporations and independent producers from around the world, e.g., BBC Worldwide series including The Great Pyramid (on Ethiopia), The Two-edged Sword (about arms trade), and award-winning series Civilisation and The Ascent of Man. Other themes included natural history and wild life. The programs were presented mostly in Kurrnanji and in dubbed, subtitled or voice-over formats.

Two weekly programs dealt with Kurdish life in Kurdistan and Europe. One was Camera Me Li Mala We (Our Camera in Your Home), a documentary report on family and social relations. Due to limited access to Kurdistan, most of the reports were about Europe. Religious programming included three features, ranging from commentary on the Koran to minority religious life. One was Dîn û Netewe (Religion and Nation), 40 minutes per week, and showed the diversity of religious life in Kurdistan, covering the majority Sunnis and minority Alevis, Yezidis and Christians.

Discussion and talk shows consisted of four features. One was a weekly call-in show which went on the air live with an invited guest to discuss a range of issues. Another, Jin û Jiyan (Women and Life), was a pre-recorded discussion of women's issues with guests and a participating studio audience. Two fortnightly features, each 2-hour and 50 minutes long, provided debate on political issues. Kursiya Gel (People's Forum) allowed audiences to participate in live debate with invited guests (Journalists, academics, parliamentarians, etc.). Some of the topics covered were life in exile, patriotism, and the Campaign for the Kurdish Language. Another program, Got û Bej (Debate), presented a debate conducted by political figures in studio and over the telephone. Many Kurdish political parties such as PKK, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and the Kurdish Democratic Party and non-Kurdish guests have participated in the debates. The program was at times multilingual, presented with simultaneous interpretation. The "aim is for the public to hear informed opinion regarding current news."

Politics and current affairs programming included seven features. A monthly one-hour slot was devoted to presentations by the members of the Kurdistan Parliament in Exile. Since Middle Eastern media generally ignore or underreport the parliament, this was the only source familiarising audiences in Kurdistan with the parliament. A fortnightly feature dealt with the economy of Kurdistan and the Middle East. Rojev (Agenda), one-hour weekly, was a studio debate and documentary footage focusing on the conflict in Turkey's Kurdistan. Ronahî (Light), a one-hour monthly journalistic news/political magazine, focused on Kurdish-European affairs.

Dossiers reported the history and status of Kurdish political parties, e.g. a four-part documentary which dealt with the history of HEP-DEP, a Kurdish political party whose members in the Turkish parliament were suppressed by Ankara. Another fortnightly feature, Rastname, provided "light magazine news/current affairs analysis" of developments in Kurdistan, Turkey and the Middle East. It also covered a seminar by the Norwegian Institute of Peace.

News (Deng û Bas) took up the largest portion of the entire programming time (20%). This was largely due to its bilingual (Kurdish and Turkish) and bidialectal (Kurmanji and Sorani) presentation. Much of the reports, both Kurdish and international, are based on external sources such as Reuters, although MED-TV also produces and edits news. Most of the Kurdish news reports deal with Turkey and the ongoing war in Kurdistan. A weekly program, Rewas,a Cihanê (Way of the World) was a digest of headline news stories and major issues covered in the world press. It included original footage prepared by an independent film company and packaged for MED-TV viewership. There was also a daily 10-rninute feature (alternating between Kurrnanji, Sorani, Zazaki and Turkish) which presented comments by various observers on key news items. News reports by major European, American and Middle Eastern newspapers were reviewed every week on Capemeniya Cihanê (The World Press). Another 15-rninute weekly news roundup drew exclusively on Reuters.11

III. The Turkish State and MED-TV

Turkey declared MED-TV as an enemy before the channel began airing programs in May. Various Turkish government authorities consider the TV channel as a PKK organ. Since the PKK is a "terrorist" and "separatist" organisation, they argue, no one should watch it, and its licence should be revoked. Continuing the tradition of the Ottoman state, Ankara used both coercion and diplomacy in order to silence the medium and its audiences. This section provides a brief documentation of Turkey's use of violence (in Turkey) and diplomacy (in Europe) against the TV channel during the first six months of broadcasting.

A. Violence Against the Media as a Form of State Terrorism

The concept "terrorism" is often associated with the use of violence by individuals or groups, usually targeted at the state. However, some political scientists find this conceptualisation inadequate since the state also uses violence against civilian, non-combatant individuals and groups. Moreover, the institution of the state holds a powerful monopoly over the means and uses of violence, and is in a position to conveniently legitimize it. Thus, the concept "terrorism" is redefined to include the state's use of coercion against its citizens. "State terrorism" is "the employment of lethal force by state governments upon civilian populations for the express purpose of weakening or destroying their will to resist" (Hanle 1989: 164). T'nis form of terrorism is conducted both internally and externally. The use of force against the internal population seeks two goals: "(1) to repress the people, making them apolitical or politically malleable, and/or (2) to weaken the population's willingness to support revolutionary or other antigovernment movements." (Ibid ) 12 State terrorism or "domination through fear" is conducted also against populations outside the borders of the country (Perdue 1989:x; Hanle 1989: 164).

The use of violence against the civilian population is not limited to the arrest, imprisonment, torture or killing of individuals or groups. Lethal force is used also against their language, culture, ideology, media, property and place of residence 13. The Turkish state provides a prominent example of violence against the Kurdish language, culture, and media both within and outside its borders.

While Turkey is not the only state engaged in violence against the media, it is distinguished from many states by constitutionalizing and legalising the practice.14 The various constitutions of Turkey and a body of legislation have suppressed the communication rights 15 of the Kurdish people. These rights include, among others, the right to read written and printed material, the right to write, the right to broadcast and listen to radio and watch television programs, the right to print and publish, the right to produce and view audiovisual texts, the right to own printed material, records, audio and video tapes, and any other means of expression in the Kurdish language. The current Constitution (1982, amended 1987), for example, stipulates that

Article 26:
No language prohibited by law shall be used in the expression and dissemination of thoughts. Any written or printed documents, phonograph records, magnetic or video tapes, and other means of expression used in contravention of this provision shall be seized by a duly issued decision of a judge or, in cases where delay is deemed prejudicial, by the competent authority designated by law. The judge shall decide on the matter within three days.16

Kurdish is one language "prohibited by law.17" Turkish legislation banning non-Turkish languages defies numerous international and European covenants such as the Charter of the United Nations (1945, paragraphs 6.11 and 55), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948, paragraphs 2 and 26), the International Covenant on Civil and Politrcal Rights (1966, Article 27), etc. (Skutnabb-Kangas and Bucak 1994:358-59). The notorious 1991 "Law to Fight Terrorism" (Law No. 3713, April 12, 1991)18 has only extended the scope of constitutionalized linguicide and state terror against the media.

Kurdish print media, books, newspapers and magazines, which were published illegally since the 1960s have been easy targets of repression. Books and magazines were confiscated and publishers, printers, distributors, authors and readers were tried, jailed and assassinated. The more recent case of the two weekly papers Özgür Gündem (31 May 1992-15 January 1993) and Yeni Üke shows how state organs (the courts, the police) and state-sponsored terrorism combined to eliminate the two publications and much of their staff and property. In less than a year, hirty-nine issues of Özgür Gündem were confiscated, and four writers and reporters were murdered; correspondents were taken into police custody 55 times, and their houses raided and cameras and equipment were taken away; three were tortured; four distributors and news agents were assassinated and three were wounded; at least three newsstands were set on fire. Similar violence was committed against Yeni Ülke and a number of other papers.19 The weekly paper Özgür Ülke, which succeeded Özgür Gündem, was also eliminated through the combined forces of the courts and state terrorism. According to Index on Censorship, "On 3 December 1994, bombs exploded simultaneously in three of its premises in Istanbul and Ankara. The Istanbul headquarters of the newspaper, a four-storey building, was totally destroyed and one employee was killed. Countless court cases have also been opened against other leftist or Kurdish publications."20

Unable to stop TV signals from the sky, the government was more limited but no less restrained in using violence against MED-TV. Since the producers and terrestrial equipment were also out of Ankara's reach, repression was centred on the audiences, the receiving equipment, coffee-houses, sellers and installers of satellite dishes.

Sale of the receiving equipment rocketed when the news of MED-TV broadcasts reached Turkey. Throughout Kurdistan, the police and the army destroyed the receiving equipment. For instance, in Eruh (Batman), the army banned the sale of dishes and warned the public not to buy them. In Kiziltepe, Mardin, police raided a dish-seller's shop and-confiscated ten dishes. Coffee-house owners in Kurdistan have been warned not to buy dishes. When MED-TV announced the broadcasting of the opening ofthe Kurdish parliament in exile (April 12, 1995), the police raided coffee-houses which had satellite dishes, arrested viewers and destroyed the receiving equipment.

The Kurdish newspaper Yeni Politika, now banned in Turkey, published reports of the arrest and torture of viewers.21 Quoting a Kurdish source in late May, The Daily Telegraph (May 25, 1995, p. 11) reported that security forces had smashed at least 30 dishes in Batman and Diyarbakir provinces. State terrorism has intimidated some audience members throughout Turkey. One Kurdish man said, "We have to watch secretly, of course. It is not safe to watch openly. It is only illegal for us Kurds. They want to oppress us." A woman from a village said, "We do not have satellite in our village, but the villages near to us had it. They didn't allow it. They came and destroyed their dishes. They wouldn't accept it."22 In spite of repression, one shop sold about 150 dishes a week. A Kurdish technician whose shop was raided by the police said that those who install dishes in Kurdish areas face repression. Fearing to speak on the camera, he said that he installed 15 dishes every evening under the cover of darkness.23

The policy of the Broadcasting Regulatory Agency was in full accord with that of the coercive forces. An early report about the launching of MED-TV appeared in Turkish Daily News on December 24, 1994. Reporting from Ankara, the paper wrote that "the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has now become involved in the field of visual communication, through television which can reach thousands or even millions of spectators." Responding to the paper's reporter, Ali Baransel, the head of the "Turkish Supreme Broadcasting Board"24 said that he had no information about the TV channel and that "the matter would be sent to the relevant Turkish authorities to be investigated" Since the Board is the "relevant" authority to deal with broadcasting, Baransel was apparently referring to security authorities.

In the discourse of the head of the Broadcasting Board, there was no hint about the newchannel's potential to enhance cultural and linguistic diversity or the communication rights of minorities. The only preoccupation was how to eliminate MED-TV:

"In the event that such a broadcast is made -- possibly through one of the Eutelsat satellites -- it is technically not possible to prevent it" Baransel said.

He added that under existing agreements on cross-border broadcasting, the only way for a country to prevent broadcasts against its interests from another country is by diplomatic means (Yilmaz 1994, emphasis added).25

Turkey's use of diplomacy against MED-TV seems to be the first case of political repression of transborder broadcasting in the emerging world of global television.

B. Coercion by Non-Violent Means: From Folkstone to London

Diplomacy extends the exercise of state power beyond the jurisdiction of the state into the international arena. Much like the army and the police, diplomacy is the realm of state monopoly. Lacking recourse to this source of power, non-government bodies such as MED-TV are at a disadvantage in negotiating a conflict that involves two sovereign states of Britain (member of the European Union) and Turkey, which are tied by a web of military, economic and political alliances.

There is a long history of Turkey's use of diplomatic power against the Kurdish media in exile. The first Kurdish newspaper, Kurdistan, could not be published in Kurdistan or even in Istanbul where Ottoman government'control was effective. It was launched, therefore, in the more open environment in Cairo in 1898. Even there, it was forced into exile to Geneva. Soon, however, diplomatic pressure by Istanbul forced the paper to take refuge in Folkstone, England. Even more persecuted than the publishers, were the readership of the paper. According to a reader, "government officials do not let it be read freely; they search to find it with a person and put him in jail and harass him; in spite of this, Kurds like the journal very much and do not want to miss it" (No. 13, p. 2). The editor printed a number of petitions addressed to the Sultan, asking for the unrestricted distribution of the paper (Hassanpour 1992: 221, 224).

A century later, Turkish diplomatic pressure was centred on London where the British regulatory body, the Independent Television Commission, had issued a 10-year licence to Med Broadcasting Ltd. According to Turkish daily Hurriyet (April 1, 1995), the Turkish Foreign Ministry

"launched an intensive diplomatic effort against MED-TV's Kurdish programmes in various European capitals. Foreign Minister Erdal Inonu has personally called the Turkish embassies in Europe to ask them to establish who has financed MED TV anal how the channel has been able to broadcast through Eutelsat."26

The Daily Telegraph reported that Turkish "anger with Britain is being expressed at the highest level."27 Ankara complained to Britain's Foreign Office about the licensing of MED-TV, and the Office asked the ITC to withdraw the licence.28

One effective method of using diplomacy is to identify MED-TV with "terrorism." According to Daily Telegraph, Turkey's President Suleyman Demirel "attacked the British authorities for granting a licence to MED-TV. "Is there any doubt in anybody's mind that the PKK guides these broadcasts?" he said. "Our European friends should not forget that terrorism can in the end come to trip themselves up too." In addition to these protests, the Turkish embassy in London directly contacted the ITC to express their concern about the "political content" of the programmes.29 A statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry claimed that the "broadcasts go beyond the 'entertainrnent' aim listed in the license. The broadcasts threaten Turkey's territorial integrity and make propaganda for the terrorist organization PKK."30

Under the terms of the Council of Europe Convention on Trans-Frontier Television, the ITC provided the Turkish government with information about the licensing of MED-TV. The Turkish embassy asked the ITC to investigate the licensing, ownership, and content of the channel to determine if there was a breach of the Commission's regulations. The Turkish government tries to persuade the ITC to revoke the licence, claiming that the channel belongs to PKK, and that such party affiliation amounts to a breach of the terms of the licence. The ITC does not allow political organisations to hold a licence. This prohibition extends to companies which are affiliated to or controlled by a political body or controlled by a person who is an officer of a political body. Lacking evidence to connect MED-TV to PKK or any political organization, the Commission is not in a position to comply with Turkey's demands. The embassy also claimed that MED-TV has violated the terms of the Broadcasting Act by airing programs not specified in the licence. The ITC has rejected this objection since the licence granted to Med Broadcasting Ltd. specifies a variety of programming such as documentaries, news, and other features. Moreover, licensees are allowed to air programs not specified in their licence application. Under continuing pressure from Turkey, the ITC is carefully monitoring the channel.

Disinformation is another means of diplomatic action against the channel; Turkey claims that programming consists of hate propaganda and secessionism. An official with Turkey's Radio and Television High Commission claimed: "I think this goes against the European conventions on television and human rights because it stirs up racial hatred and is against the territorial integrity of Turkey.'31

There were other forms of non-violent coercion. MED-TV's director, Sayan, said in an interview that he had received threatening letters from the Turks.32 Three lawyers who had been working for Med Broadcasting Ltd. had resigned. 33 MED-TV's bank account was also closed. The resignations and the bank action were apparently due to Turkish pressure or influence. Given its long history of violence against the media, the Turkish government's search for those who have financed the television channel (see above) seems ominous.

Another form of coercion is a campaign of writing letters and petitions addressed to the ITC. The writers repeat Ankara's propaganda against the TV channel, accusing it of "terrorism" and "hate propaganda and call for the revocation of its licence.34

Med Broadcasting Ltd. has a one-year contract with Eutelsat. If Eutelsat does not renew the contract, due to Turkish government intervention, the channel will be in trouble.

C. Telecommunication and Satellite Sabotage

Turkey has pioneered new forms of sabotage in international broadcasting During a live studio debate on MED-TV in mid-December, telephone calls from.two guest speakers phoning from their home in Diyarbakir, Turkey, were intercepted and replaced with-Hizbullah military march music and electronic jamming. The two callers were candidates from HADEP35 for the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Satellite broadcasting was jarnrned, probably for the first time, on December 14, when Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the Kurdistan Workers Party, was scheduled to announce a cease-fire in order to facilitate a peaceful parliamentary election on December 24. Interception began when Ocalan revealed that Turkey had considered to negotiate with his organization during the unilateral cease-fire of 1993. Interference continued intermittently for about 20 minutes. Starbird Satellite Services, the company providing the service, was not able to track-down the source of interference, although they concluded that it was "probably the result of an uplink testing its electronics without repointing its antenna away from the satellite arc."36 However, this "uplink testing" could be politically motivated and sponsored by Turkey if we take into consideration its timing as well as other forms of telephone interception conducted by Ankara.


IV. The Kurds and MED-TV

There is little doubt that the launching of the channel changed the balance of forces in favour of the Kurds. It empowered the stateless people to communicate to each other for the first time by disregarding the international borders that have divided them. Many Kurds felt that the independent body in the sky was an historical step toward sovereignty on earth.

The Creation of a National Audience

The media create their own viewing, reading and listening audiences. However, under conditions of the division of Kurdistan among various countries, none of the media has been able to create a nation-wide or national audience. In addition to the divisive international borders, several million of an estimated population of 23 to 30 million people are scattered outside Kurdistan. Moreover, the Kurds are divided by different dialects (e.g., Kurmanji, Sorani, Dimilki or Zazaki) and alphabets (Arabic, Roman and, until recently, Cyrillic). Ethnocide and linguicide have further eliminated the opportunity for the formation of a national audience.

With the power of a hurricane, MED-TV has cleared the way for the creation of a national viewing public in Kurdistan, which, together with the viewers in the diaspora, form a transnational Kurdish community. The channel has created an audience of a new type, composed primarily of the members of a stateless nation, with a divided and occupied national homeland. This audience is distinguished by, among other things, "television hunger," i.e. hunger for viewing televisual texts in the native-tongue. The largest portion, potentially ten million children and adults living in Turkey, has been denied the right to watch native.tongue programs. Although limited state- controlled Kurdish television was available in Iraq and Iran since the late 1970s, viewers were not allowed to be members of the audience of a single Kurdish television program. Free to cross international borders, satellite broadcasting has empowered the Kurds to surmount the web of political and linguistic cleavages which continue to divide their powerful and persistent national movement.

The Turkish government's efforts to prevent the formation of a Kurdish televisual audience has virtually failed. According to The Daily Telegraph (May 24, 1995, p. 11), shops in Kurdistan ("south-east")37 reported that sales of dishes had rocketed after the station started up. Since many Kurds in Ankara did not afford the expensive equipment, they gathered at the headquarters of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party to view the program. A woman said, "This is a dream come true... They can't stop us from watching television in our language any more." NRC Handelsblad correspondent, F. Santing, quoted a HADEP official in Ankara who said that viewers in both rural and urban areas sell their extra quilts and wedding rings to buy a dish. Kurdish homes with a satellite dish function as a kind of cinema. In the small living room, about 30, 40 and sometimes 50 persons gather to watch the program. However, government violence against MED-TV has been intimidating. Even in Ankara, far from Kurdistan, a viewer told the paper that there was a fear that the government one way or another could succeed in silencing the station; this fear was present especially among the lower income people who did not dare to buy a dish. Another fear was being arrested by the police.38

Reports from Iranian Kurdistan also indicate an outpour of enthusiasm. Although the government banned the ownership of satellite dishes in 1994, they are still in use in Iran including Kurdistan. In spite of potential government surveillance, a number of viewers have called the live shows. Some programs are recorded on video tape, and circulate among a larger viewership. According to one observer who visited a Kurdish city in late summer, MED-TV programs were the talk of the town.

In Europe, the program was hailed by the Kurdish community. The Kurdish monthly Hengaw (Nos. 17-18, June 1995, p. 1), published in London, called it the "MED revolution.... more important than all our armed revolutions; that is why it has more than anything else disturbed the racist Ataturkist regime..." The head of the Kurdish Writers Association in Sweden wrote that Turkish, Arabic and Persian televisions were major tools of assimilation, and that MED-TV can be the "voice of the Kurdish people" (letter published in Cira, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1995, p. 120). The literary and cultural magazine Gzing (No. 8, summer 1995, Sweden) celebrated the channel as the realization of an old dream...

In North America, where the channel cannot be received, videotapes of some of the programs have created a video audience. They are available for sale, shown in community gatherings, and viewed in family circles. A Kurdish resident of Vancouver (in western Canada), who had seen some of the videotaped programs, said that he would move to maritime provinces (in eastern Canada) if the channel could be received there.39. The following is a profile of a couple who are political refugees from Iranian Kurdistan and are residents of Sweden. They bought a dish only to view MED-TV. They watch all the programs aired in their own Sorani standard. Since they do not understand Turkish they either change the channel or switch it off when the language is Turkish. The most preferred features are discussions and current affairs, which they videotape. Many friends borrow these tapes. Their knowledge of Kurmanji dialect has irnproved, since most of the programs are in this dialect. They watch even children's programs, although the wife is more interested in music.40

It is known that the media, especially television, enhance the status of language. A family from Bingol in northern Kurdistan, living in Germany, had accepted, for decades, the Turkish government's propaganda which presented Kurdish language and culture as backward and rural. After the family watched the programs in a friend's home, they began to doubt the propaganda, and later bought a satellite dish.

Cultural Contact: Forging Televisual Solidarity

Since the advent of television in the post-World War II period, a rich heritage of audiovisual culture has been created. Although a few industrial countries continue to be main actors in this realm of culture, the proliferation of television and video and the struggle of marginalized peoples and groups have combined to introduce considerable diversity. Audiences in Kurdistan have experienced very little of this rich international heritage; everything is censored through the gatekeepers of Turkish, Iranian or Iraqi television.

In the search for programming, MED-TV has received support from marginalized peoples such as the Basque, Catalans and Greeks. Basque Television, for instance, donated a considerable number of programs in July 1995. 41 This exchange will contribute to the enrichment of Kurdish cultural and political life. Financial limitations, however, continue to limit access to the products of public and commercial television, which are available only through the market place.

MED-TV has opened another avenue for solidarity and promotion of peaceful coexistence. A weekly 40-minute slot was reserved for the Assyrians to broadcast in their own language. The Assyrian (Chaldean, Nestorian) people, remnants of ancient Assyria, have been reduced to a dispersed and marginal people in Kurdistan. In the past, the Ottoman and Iranian states and the great powers involved in the politics of the region pitted the Kurds and Assyrians against each other. The friendly and peaceful coexistence of the two peoples, as well as the Armenians, were interrupted by dark periods of conflict. At MED-TV, the Assyrians have their own programming committee, and began their program with a six-hour live debate involving Assyrian leaders and intellectuals of diverse backgrounds. Another feature of the channel is programming for the majority religion of Sunnism and minority religions of Alevis, Yezidis and Christians.

MED-TV as a Language Academy.

Although the visual image is central to the meaning of the audiovisual text, television uniquely combines visuality with the oral and written modes of language use. Captioning and subtitling are especially significant in a language such as Kurdish which uses two principal scripts (Arabic and Roman) and has three major dialect groups (Kurmanji, Sorani and Zazaki).

The diversity and frequency of programming demands constant decision-making on issues of language use, language policy and language planning. As a popular medium, television is more powerful than print in influencing the distribution of linguistic power. This raises many questions from the point of view of language policy and planning. Subtitling, for instance, if used interdialectally, may or may not help dialect unification, or attract a larger multidialectal audience. A program in Kurrnanji can be subtitled in Sorani in the Arabic-based script since all Sorani speakers are familiar with this alphabet. However, a Sorani program subtitled in Kurmanji has to be presented in both the Arabic and Latin scripts because the speakers of the dialect from Turkey are not familiar with the Arabic letters. Moreover, in a language like Kurdish, which is proscribed in writing in both Turkey and Syria and is not allowed to be used in schools in Iran, subtitling in the same dialect will promote the written variety of the dialect. Other policy issues are present. For instance, what script(s) and dialect(s) should be used in the studio setting? What combination of dialects should the announcer(s) and host(s) represent? Interdialectal contact can be planned to maintain, increase or decrease dialectal cleavages. Many of these issues have not been addressed yet. This is, in part, because audience excitement and the urge for unity have overridden such cleavages. Moreover, language planning requires a less spontaneous approach. At the same time, audience demand will pose many dilemmas when the size of viewership increases. A caller from Iranian Kurdistan passionately beseeched the hosts not to use Turkish in any programs.42 She said that the Kurds of Iran did not understand Turkish, and that a Kurdish television should use Kurdish only. Language policy issues are quite often politically sensitive.

Translation and dubbing from other languages make new demands on the lexical repertoire of the language. This means extensive terminological creation and borrowing on a daily basis. In the absence of a language academy or other linguistic associations, the channel has already taken on such a role. This is not without precedent, however. Most of the written languages of the West were standardised through the medium of printing. Newly standardising languages like Kurdish have benefited from radio broadcasting (Hassanpour 1992:281-303).

Although Kurrnanji outnumbers the more standardised Sorani dialect and enjoys an older literary tradition, it lost its advantaged position in the 1920s when Republican Turkey adopted a policy of linguicide. Enjoying limited freedom in Iraq, the Sorani dialect made considerable progress in emerging as a standard variety. MED-TV is, today, predominantly Kurmanji, and it has already enhanced the status of the dialect. Since the 1970s, considerable effort has been devoted by the Kurds in Europe to cultivation of the dialect. It remains to be seen if MED-TV can fruitfully cooperate with individual language reformers scattered in Europe and Kurdistan.

Building Civil Society and a Public Sphere in the Sky

Political repression in all parts of Kurdistan, especially in Turkey, has eliminated any prospects for the development of a "public sphere" or forum for debates about Kurdish demands for self-rule. The Turkish state and the pro-government media have sought a monopoly of definition and interpretation in all issues related to Kurdish destinies. Privileging bullets over ballots, the state has forced the Kurdish voice into the underground since the mid-1920s.

Although the Ottoman feudal system, like Medieval Europe, did not allow its "subjects" to engage in open public discussion on matters of universal interest such as the nature of the state and the fate of subject peoples, its loosely organized state structure failed to strangle oppositional discourses and intellectual practices. Thus, the mosque schools and hucres43 in Kurdistan emerged, since the sixteenth century, as the birthplace of Kurdish literature and ethnic and national awareness. No doubt, developing a literary tradition in Kurdish and introducing the use of the language in the mosque schools amounted to bid'a, 'innovation, novelty', or even kofr, 'heresy', in so far as it was equated with challenging the language of God, Arabic. Kurdish did, however, develop a literary tradition and was used, on a limited scale, in teaching. The two apostles of Kurdish nationalism, Ahmad-e Khani (1650-1706) and Haji Qadiri Koyi (1817?-1897), were both mullas and teachers at the mosque schools.44 The "modern" state of Turkey eliminated these circles and replaced them by a centralized state-owned education and state-controlled mass media. Moreover, the Turkish, Iranian, Iraqi and Syrian states adopted an official ideology (Kemalism, Pahlavism, Batthism) which was imposed on the "citizens" through both coercion and persuasion.

The existence of a vibrant "civil society," i.e. a realm distinct from and independent of the state, is considered to be essential for democratic life. In the Middle East, however, the modern state emerged as an etatist institution, which relegated all power to the state. It thus undermined the very idea of a civil society. Unlike the West, where public spheres or open political space between civil society and the state emerged, in the Middle East the state repressed the citizens for critically reflecting upon themselves and the practices of the state. The media, potential actors in the public sphere, were silenced. Kurdish demands for self-rule were met with bullets and bombs. Instead of debate, the state-controlled political space was used to deny the existence of the Kurds. Violence, physical and symbolic, drew the Kurdish voice underground.

To many Kurds, MED-TV seems to be the public sphere denied the Kurds in their homeland, on the earth. It is a political space in the heavens. For the first time in history, Kurds from all parts of Kurdistan debate, free of state repression, the fate of their people. Not surprisingly, Turkish authorities have refused to participate in interviews and debates.45

V. Turkey, England and the European Union

Turkey's primary weapon in legally silencing MED-TV is to link it with PKK. As mentioned earlier, however, the applicant for the licence was not PKK but rather a private enterprise, Med Broadcasting Ltd. Moreover, any observer of Kurdish political culture can readily distinguish MED-TV's programming from PKK's print and audiovisual productions. A cursory content analysis of the channel's programs and PKK publications reveals fundamental differences between the two. While PKK publications do not deviate from the party's political line, MED-TV programs meet the standards of Western broadcast journalism -- accuracy, fairness, and objectivity. This is certainly more the case with MED-TV's coverage of Turkey than Turkey's media coverage of the Kurds, which does not deviate from Ankara's political line. In terms of entertainment and cultural programrning, the channel is quite diverse in both viewpoints and variety of content. While PKK is secular, MED-TV provides religious programs for both the dominant and minority religions.

The media are, however, born under concrete historical conditions. Far from being simply another medium of communication, television is a complex social, cultural, economic, political and technologically-based institution. The majority of the world's several thousand languages do not yet have access to television, film or, even, writing and printing. In spite of its numerical strength, Kurdish has been reduced to an endangered minority language due to the forcible division of Kurdistan. The leapfrogging of this language to the age of satellite television would probably not happen without the nationalist movement that PKK is spearheading. MED-TV was initiated by Europe's Kurdish community, which predominantly consists of the Kurds of Turkey. Most Kurds in Europe and Turkey support the nationalist movement without having organizational ties with the PKK.

Considering Turkey's record in suppressing the media, it seems clear that its campaign against the channel is not primarily related to alleged PKK connections. Any Kurdish satellite channel would have met a similar reaction. Since the 1980s, Turkish embassies have protested various governments in Europe for the provision of native language teaching and other services to Kurdish refugees.46 Ankara's policy is rooted in Turkish ethnic-nationalism, which is intent on the creation of a purely Turkish nation and nation-state. Adherence to the "Supreme Principle of [Turkish] Nationalism" is the main source of conflict in a country that is ethnically and linguistically diverse (Muller 1995).

The ITC has so far resisted Turkish and British government pressure since the licensee has not breached the terms of the licence. According to a front page news report in the Turkish daily Hürriyet (November 23, 1995), Prime Minister Ciller received guarantees from British Prime Minister Major whom she met in London both on the Customs Union and for controlling the broadcasts of MED-TV, "which is operating like the voice of the PKK." She presented Major with a dossier of remarks made by [PKK leader] Abdullah Ocalan on this channel in relation to activities in Turkey and broadcasts related to PKK activities. After receiving these documents Major said, "I did not know it was that much. I will show you the necessary support on this issue. However we have a radio television board which is concerned with these broadcasts. We cannot intervene in this. But as the government, we will do whatever is within our hands..."(Ibid.).

Soon after Ciller's meetings with Major, the Foreign and Comrnonwealth Office withdrew its British Satellite News service from MED-TV. This is a 10-minute daily news feed with a weekly edition provided free of charge to any channel interested in using it. The service includes news and features "from the British point of view" on subjects including culture, environment, politics, finance, medicine, science, sport and technology. While MED-TV could still directly downlink these news feed via three transmitting satellites, BSN refused to provide scripts and other necessary information.

As MED-TV expands its delivery system in Europe, Turkey will extend its interference in the internal affairs of other countries. The channel has begun delivery on cable in Switzerland and Denmark, and is planning to provide it on other cable networks. Turkey is already confronting Britain, Belgium (for allowing the presence of MED-TV's studio and the Kurdish Parliament in Exile), the Netherlands and other members of the European Union for failing to silence the Kurdish voice. During her December visit to Gerrnany, Ciller lobbied the government to prevent the channel going on cable.47 In the past, Germany has, to a large extent, complied with Turkey's demands.48 Now, the ball is in the court of EU and, especially, Britain. Since legal means (revoking the licence) failed, Turkey has taken political action under the guise of the Council of Europe Convention on Trans-Frontier Television to silence the Kurdish voice.49 The policy options seem to be very clear: one is unequivocal rejection, by Britain and EU, of Turkey's agenda for repression of the linguistic, cultural and communication rights of the Kurdish citizens of Europe and the Middle East; the other is cooperating withTurkey in extending to Europe Ankara's terrorism against the media.

The suppression of MED-TV will raise questions about the nature of Western democracy and its claims to freedom of the press. It is no hidden secret that for Western powers accommodating Turkey's interests has always been more vital than respecting Kurdish rights. Turkey, a NATO member, is the West's indispensable tool for safeguarding their interest in the volatile regions of the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia. So far, Realpolitik has guided EU and American policy. Introducing Turkey's Prime Minister Tansu Ciller on her 1993 visit to the U.S., President Clinton said: "Turkey is a shining example to the world of the virtues of cultural diversity."50 Washington has lobbied for Turkish admission into EU's Customs Union.

"Satellite Revolution," Democracy and Sovereianty

New technologies such as direct-to-home satellite broadcasting and global computer networking are changing the traditional regime of international relations, which is based on generally well-defined and protected national borders. It is often argued, for instance, that concepts such as sovereignty, nation, nation-state, democracy, diplomacy, space and time have to be abandoned or revised. Nothing can demonstrate better than MED-TV the potential of these conmmuiucation technologies tor challenging the notion of sovereignty.

Turkey has felt free, within the confine of its territory and even in neighbouring countries, to engage in the destruction of thousands of villages, transfer of population, the arrest and execution ot the citizens, and the suppression of dissident media. However, Kurdish access to satcasting has slightly undermined the exercise of power by Ankara. In her interview with the Associated Press, Elizabeth Smiths, secretary-general of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association, said: "It is a satellite revolution... It's going to revolutionize freedom of information....You can't stop it".51 According to the Guardian, Frances D'Souza, director of Article XIX International Centre Against Censorship (London), "hailed the birth of MED TV as a defeat for political censorship. This will happen increasingly", she said. "It must be seen as a direct threat to governrnent and political power because that is how information is always treated in countries where there is oppression."52

The liberating potential of the technology is, however, constrained by the powers of the state and the market. The geostationary orbit and its satellites have so far emerged as the kingdom of the state and market forces. We are slow to realize that in Westem democracies, the market has replaced the state as the main locus of censorship (Jansen 1988). A "satellite aristocracy" now rules in the sky (Joxe 1994). Comrnenting on media baron Rupert Murdoch's equation of freedom with lack of regulation, Hird ( 1994) argues that at present "satellite and dictatorship are natural allies; and it is the regulatory framework of the liberal democracies... that can ensure diversity and plurality in broadcasting." However, we have yet to see if the regulatory body of one of the oldest democracies will continue to resist one of the worst adversaries of freedom of the press.

New communication technologies create new forms of control and censorship. In fact, a global surveillance system is in the process of formation in the current phase of "information society" (Braman 1993). It is not difficult to see that transnationalization of television creates a global system of control. As is obvious from the case of MED-TV, its suppression requires the combined forces of the Turkish state, satellite and cable companies, the regulatory bodies of Britain, Belgium and the EU, and, directly or indirectly, a number of other EU countries. It seems that resisting censorship in the "global village" demands new alliances in the civil society, and on a olobal level.

 


References

1. Western media coverage of MED-TV was mixed, and in part shaped by Turkey's propaganda campaign. For obvious political and ideological commitments, mainstream Western media and many academics have ignored Turkey's state terrorism; they prefer to present Turkey as a "secular democracy" and to construct its adversary, the PKK, as a terrorist organization (Herman and O'Sullivan 1989:222-23; Chomsky 1989:286-87). Generally, both the media and academia see the Kurdish people's movement for national rights or sovereignty through the eyes of the Turkish state, and present it as "separatism" or "secessionism." Media reports indeed mentioned the banning of the Kurdish language and culture in Turkey and referred to Kurdish reports about the smashing of satellite dishes in Kurdistan. However, while occasional Kurdish attacks on Turkish property in Europe, aimed at attracting media attention, have been systematically reported as terrorism, the more violent Turkish offensive against MED-TV viewers and the owners and sellers of satellite dishes are either underreported or mentioned, in passing, as "unconfirmed" news. Still, some media reports noted the significance of the channel for minority broadcasting, and quoted human rights activists who hailed it as a victory against censorship. Screen Digest (London), in a brief article about "television and ethnic minorities in Europe" (July 1995, p. 153), wrote that MED-TV is one of the few instances we know of television being used to present the point of view of a politically repressed group. This infuriates the Turkish government. A disinformation campaign has tried to brand MED-TV as an arm of the revolutionary Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). A number of publications including Screen Digest (see 1995/65b5), have wrongly repeated this suggestion by picking up reports emanating from Turkey. Screen Digest apologizes unreservedly to MED-TV for its earlier incorrect report. Ä

2. Lines from the poem Xakî Cizîr û Botan, "The Land of Jizir and Botan" (Sed qa'ime w qesîde kes naykiê be pûiê, Rojname ûto cerîde kewtote qîmet û san). See Hassanpour (1992: 221; 92-95) for references. In the same poem, Haji reminded the Kurds that they should learn from the Sudanese, the Bulgarians, the Serbs and the Greeks who had risen up and become independent. Ä

3 MED-TV, Kurdish Satellite Television, Brochure published in London, [fall 1995].Ä

4. Jon Davey, Director of Cable & Satellite, ITC., response to my inquiry, October 13, 1995.Ä

5. Ibid. Ä

6. Ibid. Ä

7. Ibid. Ä

8. The Associated Press, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without homeland," August 14, 1995. Ä

9. Yilmaz Guney, the Kurdish filmmaker, produced many films in Turkey and in Turkish. Asked in exile in 1984, "Why haven't you produced films in the Kurdish language?," he answered, "Very simple, because the Kurdish language is legally proscribed in Turkey. At present, the main obstacle in exile is the lack of competent staff" (Hassanpour 1992:343). Some of Guney's films were banned from Turkey's movie theatres. Ä

10. Sweden has emerged as an active centre of media culture in the diaspora. It is at present the ideal place for producing children's programming. Supported by modest public funding, a considerable volume of Swedish children's literature has been translated into Kurdish and published in nice editions. There is also some subtitling of cartoons and even a few children's magazines. Ä

11. This summary of MED-TV programming is based on MED-TV Programm Guide (November 1995) and my own viewing, especially in November.Ä

12. The Turkish Minister of Human Rights, Azimdet Köylüoglu stated on October 11, 1994 that in Tunceli "terrorism is committed by the State and in other regions by PKK," AFP report reprinted in Information and Liaison Bulletin (published by Institut Kurde de Paris), No. 115, October 1994, p. 85.Ä

13. See Skutnabb-Kangas and Bucak (1994), on the "killing" of the Kurdish language in Turkey. Helsinki Watch Committee (1988) is a brief report on "destroying ethnic identity" of the Kurds in Turkey.Ä

14. Much of the documentation of violence against the media appears in the extensive literature on censorship. Although censorship is often conducted through intimidation or the use of force, the concept generally does not imply violent action against the media. John Nerone (1990) has used the concept "violence against the press" in order to examine the "patterns of violent activity against the media and their personnel" in the United States.Ä

15. See, among an expanding literature, "Communication is a Human Right," special issue o Media Development: Journal of the World Association for Christian Communication, 1988, Vol. XXXV, No. 4 (published in London).Ä

16. A. Blaustein and G. Flanz, Constitutions of the Countries of the World - Turkey. Dobbs Ferry, N.Y., August 1994, p. 13. Ä

17. See Rumpf (1989) for an analysis and the text of some of the laws. Ä

18. For excerpts from this law, see "The terror that walks in Turkey," Index on Censorship, Vol.24,No. 1, 1995,pp. 148-49. Seem among others, Turkey: NewRestrictive Anti-Terror Law, Helsinki Watch, New York, June 10, 1991, 6 pages; Freedom of Expression in Turkey: Abuses Continue, Helsinki Watch, New York, June 18, 1991, 27 pages; Turkey: Censorship by Assassination Continues, Helsinki Watch, New York, February 1994, 4 pages. See, also, "November human rights violations in Turkey mount," in Turkish Daily News, December 26, 1994. This is based on a report by Turkey's Human Rights Association which documents the repression of intellectuals, politicians, and publications, and violent action against individuals, the burning and evacuation of villages in Kurdistan, etc. Ä

19. For a detailed documentation of the suppression of the two papers see Serdar Celik (1993; 1994). See, also, Enforced Restraint: Press Conditions in Turkey, published by Committee to Protect Journalists, New York, 1990. Information is also available in publications such as Index on Censorship and Article 19. Ä

20. N(icole) P(ope), "Media", Index on Censorship, Volume 24, No1, January / February 1995, p. 154. Ä

21. See, for example, reports in Yeni Politika in May 1995, especially on May 11, 1995. Ä

22. Beating the Censor, a Frontline News (London) report produced bz Tonz Smith and Tim Exton aired on Sweden's Channel 1, Åtta Dasar (Eight Days) program, September 25, 1995. Also aired on Germany's Deutsche Welle and NHK TV, Japan. Ä

23. Ibid. Ä

24. One of the tasks of this organ, composed of twelve persons, is "the supervision, control, and evaluation of the activities of TRT [Turkish Radio and Television Institution] as well as any radio and television broadcasts and other electronic broadcasts other than TRT" (Unsal 1994:284). Ä

25. In October 1995, Western media reported from Istanbul the trial of Reuters' American correspondent, Aliza Marcus, who was accused of "provoking enmity and hatred by displaying racism or regionalism" in a November 1994 news report about the war in Turkey's Kurdistan. The report had mentioned Turkish government's evacuation of about 1,500 Kurdish villages in order to deny food and recruits to PKK guerrillas. It said that "forcibly evacuating and even torching villages in southeastern Turkey is now a central part of the military's 10-year battle against Kurdish rebels." Since Marcus claimed that she had only sent basic information to Reuters bureaus and the report had been written in London, the judges "called for Reuters management to inform them exactly who wrote what in the article" before the court reconvened in November (Pope 1995:A3). Marcus had also written a report about MED-TV. Under considerable pressure from outside Turkey, the court acquitted her in November (USA Today, November 10, 1995, p. 4A).Ä

26. Reported in BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, Part 2 Central Europe and the Balkans; BALKANS; TURKEY; EE/2270/b, April 5, 1995.Ä

27.'"Turkey protests as Kurds beam TV from Britain," The Daily Telegraph, May 24, 1995, p.11Ä

28. "Turkey protests to ITC over Kurdish channel licence," The Financial Times, April 27, 1995. Ä

29. "Turkey protests as Kurds beam TV from Britain," The Daily Telegraph, May 24, 1995, p. 11. Ä

30 . The Associated Press, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without a homeland," August IS, l99SÄ

3l.Aliza Marcus,"Kurdish TV from Britain is nationalist voice," Reuters, May 15, 1995.Ä

32.The Associated Press, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without homeland," August 14, 1995.Ä

33. My interview with Mr. Haluk Sayan, London, July 12, 1995.Ä

34 .See for example, "MED-TV ,sikayet edildi [Complaint made against MED-TV]," Turkiye, November 4, 1995.Ä

35. HADEP, People's Democratic Party, was created by some of the former members of the banned pro-Kurdish Party for Democracy (DEP) which was dissolved in July 1994. Although apparently tolerated, the activists of this party are being persecuted. Ä

36. Richard Aggus, General Manager, Starbird Satellite Services (London), Fax to Phillip Declercq, and MED-TV, December 18, 1995; MED-TV (London), Press Release, 18 December Ä

37 .Having banned the name Kurd and Kurdistan, the Turkish government and media refer to Kurdish regions as "the southeast."Ä

38. "Eigen tv betovert koerden," NRC Handelsblad, May 22, 1995, p. 4.Ä

39. Interview with N. in August 1995, Montreal.Ä

40 . Interview with S. and T., October 29, 1995 in Sweden.Ä

41 . Interview with Mr. Haluk Sayan, London, July 12, l995.Ä

42 . This was in a music program with Arame Tigran, the Armenian singer, who was performing both Kurdish and Armenian songs. One of the hosts spoke in both Kurmanji and Sorani while the other spoke in Turkish. Unlike Iran and Iraq, where language loss is minimal, in Turkey many Kurds have lost their language due to seven decades of linguicide. MED-TV's policy of using Turkish seems to address the needs of this group of audiences as well as potential Turkish viewers.

43 . Hucre is the lodging place or dormitory within the mosque where the feqê (theological students) lived and studied.Ä

44 . See Hassanpour (1992:72-97) for a brief account of these developments.Ä

45 . The Associated Press, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without homeland," August 14, l995.Ä

46 . To give a few examples, the Turkish embassy protested the Danish government for offering a course in Copenhagen for training Kurdish teachers; the embassy in Stockholm objected to the establishment of Kurdish day care centers; the embassy in Germany told Gerrnan officials not to accept Kurdish names for children born in the country; the embassy in Washington protested the opening of an exhibition of photographs of Kurdistan at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York (Helsinki Watch Committee 1988:10).Ä

47 . Hürriyet, December 6, 1994. Ä

48 .v According to one observer (Meyer-Ingwersen 1989: 46), although "no Kurdish books are being burnt in the FRG, and nobody in being persecuted for having written something in Kurdish, in a subtle way the FRG is systematically implementing the Turkish policy of prohibiting non-Turkish languages."Ä

49 . According to a report by Anatolian Agency dated November 28, 1995, Turkey "would activate the European Convention on Transfrontier Television within the framework of the European Council against Belgium and England." Quoting Turkey's Foreign Ministry, another report (November 30) noted that "the Radio Television Supreme Board (RTUK), responsible for the implementation of the Convention in Turkey, has made initial contact with its counterpart, the English Independent Television Commission, but has to date not received positive result..."Ä

50. Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, 3. 18. 1994, p. 20, cited in Saeedpour (1995: 1). Ä

51.The Associated Press, "Kurds pioneer broadcasting to ethnic groups without homeland," August 14, 1995. Ä

52.Sarah Boseley, "Kurds' London TV station makes Turkey seethe," The Guardian, May, 25, 1995. Ä

 


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