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Tuesday 20th March 2018

Erdoğan Attack on Kurdish Broadcaster Another Attempt on Media Control

Media & Culture

Roberto Tumbarello

Tue, 06 Aug 2019 10:08 GMT

Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdoğan, denounced Italy for hosting a Kurdish satellite broadcaster that exalts the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistanê, The Kurdistan Worker’ Party (PKK). But AgCom, the state authority that controls the legitimacy of transmissions, took the complaint into consideration and upon investigation found neither incitement to hatred nor terrorism in any of the information programs or the interviews. Therefore, the issuer was acquitted, authorising the freedom to inform and allowing the continuation of the transmissions. 

Medya Haber is a Kurdish-language broadcaster that annoys Tayyip Erdoğan. It belongs to a small Italian publishing company based in Campobasso, the capital of the Molise region. They obtained the AgCom licence to broadcast from 5 December, 2017.  

Turkey has been urging Italy to shut down the broadcaster for more than a year, accused of extolling the actions of the PKK, claiming the creation of a Kurdish state which, according to the Turks, is on the list of terrorist organisations listed by the Council of the European Union.  

According to the RTÜK, the Turkish Communications Authority, Medya Haber allegedly violated Italian and international laws against "the integrity of the Turkish Republic, inciting violence and provoking feelings of racism". On 12 February 2019 the AgCom launched an investigation to ascertain the merits of the Turkish accusations against the Kurdish broadcaster. 

Campobasso TV managers pointed out that:  

1) No program of theirs has ever incited hatred or tackled issues based on race, religion or nationality;  

2) Medya Haber is an independent commercial television; therefore it cannot be classified as an information body of the PKK; 

3) The European Court of Justice cancelled the PKK from the list of terrorist organisations. 

That Erdoğan has instigated an attack on a media broadcaster, even overseas, is no surprise. It is a strategy he has used within his own country because he maintained that throughout his political career, the media has set out to lynch him. 

When Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002, his greatest aim was to bring Turkey’s media under his own control.

Seventeen years later, the vast majority of the country’s mainstream media is owned by relatives or allies of Erdoğan and it is impossible to dispute that he has almost fully attained that goal. Over that period he has employed state, political and economic power to turf out media independent bosses and, with the help of considerable public funding, consolidate those who toe his party’s line.

In press freedom rankings Turkey sits at number 157 out of 189 countries. In his speeches, Erdoğan regularly vilifies media and journalists as “terrorists” while stoking fears of terrorism among his voters. 

Self-censorship is pervasive; critical journalists are jailed, fined, or fired. Some have fled the country.

With around 90 percent of Turkish media outlets now controlled by government allies, and a strict crackdown on dissent that has made Turkey the largest jailer of journalists in the world, critical media is likely no longer Erdoğan’s fearsome opponent. 

A 2019 Human Rights Watch report looking at Freedom of Expression, Association and Assembly, said that even journalists working for Kurdish media in Turkey continued to be arrested and jailed repeatedly, obstructing critical reporting from the southeast of the country. 

Today we learn that, at the conclusion of the instructors, the Italian Communications Authority has cleared and acquitted Medya Haber because – they write – "television programming does not illicitly direct the behaviour of viewers, nor infuses violent feelings against certain public institutions or parties politicians". 

Indeed, the AgCom adds that "the transmissions are justified by a need for socially appreciable information. The facts recounted are reported in the most elementary narrative form and are accompanied by interviews, which seem useful for understanding the news ". 

Moreover, AgCom claims that even if the speeches of members of the PKK constitute an incitement to action, according to the Italian and European legislation, the conduct of Medya Haber "falls within the concept of free expression of thought”, also in consideration of the sentence of the European court of Luxembourg of 15 November 2018 according to which the PKK is no longer included among the entities involved in terrorist activities. 

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