Cablegate: Local Tv Stations Apply to Broadcast in Kurdish

Published: Fri 24 Sep 2004 02:43 PM
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
E.O. 12958: N/A
REF: A. A) ANKARA 3236
B. B) ADANA 00119
1. (U) Summary: At least four local television stations - three
in Diyarbakir and one in Batman - have applied to Turkey's Radio
and Television Board (RTUK) for the right to broadcast
Kurdish-language programs. RTUK has acknowledged the
applications and claims it is reviewing them in consultation
with other government entities. A Gun TV representative stated
that if approved, the broadcasts would be two times per week for
45 minutes each. Concurrent to this review process, a September
1 RTUK press release announced that Gun TV would be shut down
for one month some time in September due to a December 2003
broadcast that was "against the values of Ataturk, against the
unity of the state, and against the nation's existence and
independence." End Summary.
2. (U) At least four local television stations have applied to
Turkey's Radio and Television Board (RTUK) for the right to
broadcast Kurdish-language news and cultural programs. A reform
package passed in 2002 initially paved the way for such
applications, allowing for broadcasting in "languages and
dialects traditionally used in daily life by Turkish citizens."
Nearly two years after the reforms were passed, the state-run
national TRT channel initiated programming in Kurdish and other
minority languages (Ref A). Now local channels are waiting to
see if they will be authorized to do the same.
3. (SBU) Three of the local station applicants, Gun TV, ART,
and Soz TV, are located in Diyarbakir. The fourth, Cagri TV,
opened in Batman in 1994 and is that city's only local
television station. Gun TV's General Manager told poloff on
September 3 that his station had originally applied in March
2004 for permission to air Kurdish-language broadcasts, and when
they did not receive any reply, they applied again. After the
second application, RTUK told them it was "being considered."
Cagri TV applied in June after Kurdish language broadcasts
started on TRT. ART applied on August 23.
RTUK: Can we check your references?
4. (SBU) Cagri staff said they had heard a "positive signal"
from RTUK in August, but had not received anything in writing.
They were optimistic. As of early September, however, the Gun
TV representative had not received any communication from RTUK
beyond acknowledgement that their applications were being
reviewed. In fact staff at Cagri TV and Gun TV seemed to be
learning more about the status of their applications through the
press than through official channels. On August 20, for
example, Milliyet reported that RTUK had solicited the views of
MIT (Turkey's intelligence service) and the Interior Ministry
about the applications. The Interior Ministry, via the relevant
Governor's offices, reportedly confirmed that the language and
dialects mentioned in the applications were spoken in their
respective provinces. [Note: This confirmation likely fulfills
a formality required by the official application process. End
Note.] A Gun TV representative told poloff that if the
station's application were approved, he believed it would be for
two 45-minute Kurdish-language programs per week.
Mixed Messages
5. (U) While the staff of Gun TV was encouraged that their
application was being considered, they had just received notice
a day before our September 3 meeting that they would soon be
shut down for a month by RTUK for a live broadcast they aired
previously. In a September 1 RTUK press release, the Board gave
notice that Gun TV would be shut down for a month (dates
unspecified) for a broadcast that was "against the values of
Ataturk, against the unity of the state, and against the
nation's existence."
6. (SBU) The Gun General Director explained that the station
had broadcast live coverage of a symposium on local
administration, human rights and the media. Symposium
organizers had received the appropriate permission for the event
from the Governor, and local government officials as well as at
least one telephone participant based in Europe debated the
issues in a panel format. One of the participants gave a
presentation in Kurdish with simultaneous translation into
Turkish. According to our contact, others on the panel who
spoke in Turkish had more critical things to say about the
government than did the Kurdish speaker, but he believes the
combination of the language and the content led to the shutdown
notice. They expect the one-month penalty to start some time in
September. In response to this penalty, Gun's representative
said, other media sources had announced Gun was being
temporarily shut down for "broadcasting separatist material."
"You would expect other journalists in Turkey to support us," he
said, but the attitudes of some other media outlets made Gun
staffers feel very "lonely."
7. (SBU) Comment: The Turkish authorities are dragging their
feet on these applications. If any of the applications are
approved, it will mark another step forward in implementation of
Turkey's reform process. It took two years from the passage of
reforms for Kurdish language broadcasts on TRT to begin, and an
equal amount of time, if not more, for the approval process
allowing Kurdish language instruction centers to open (Ref B).
There is a certain irony to Gun TV's application being reviewed
in one RTUK hand, while the other orders a one-month shutdown.
End comment.
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