UK Television Body Suspends Kurdish Station

LONDON–March 22 (Reuters) – A British television watchdog said on Monday it had ordered a Kurdish channel to cease broadcasting for 21 days after it showed calls for violence in Turkey.

The Independent Television Commission said it had given London-based Med TV three weeks to convince it to allow them to continue broadcasting.

"The essence of these recent breaches is that the broadcasts contain calls to direct violence and criminal actions of various kinds," ITC’s Director of Programs and Cable–Sarah Thane–told reporters.

The broadcasts were made after the arrest of Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan last month–and feature messages from Kurdish leaders calling for acts of violence in Turkey.

Turkey says guerrillas of Ocalan’s Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) finance Med TV.

The ITC said it received calls from Turkish authorities to revoke the license–but the decision was made purely on legal grounds.

"We have a job given us by parliament to do–and we must do it and do it fairly," Thane said.

Med TV’s founder Hikmet Tabak said the ITC had bowed to Turkish pressure to suspend the license.

"We will challenge the decision legally–we have a strong argument," Tabak told Reuters by telephone from Brussels.

He said Kurds in Europe–Turkey and the Middle East watch news and cultural programs broadcast on Med TV–which he said provides a focal point for the Kurdish Diaspora.

"We were a voice for all Kurds," Tabak said.

The ITC showed reporters a clip from a Med TV news broadcast which included a broadcast from a Kurdish rebel which according to an ITC transcript–said:

"Our patriotic masses in Europe should not cross the boundaries of democratic measures…The Kurdish people in Turkey–however–should adopt all kinds of fighting methods without losing any time."

The ITC said it had formally warned Med TV for breaches of its code on impartiality and inciting crime–and fined it 90,000 pounds ($146,400) in January 1998.

It said it warned Med TV last November it would lose its license if it did not comply with the code.

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