Turkish Watchdog Closes TV for Kurdish Broadcasts

DIYARBAKIR–Turkey (Reuters)–Turkey’s broadcasting watchdog on Monday suspended broadcasts for one year by a local television station that played Kurdish-language music videos–despite a constitutional amendment to allow Kurdish broadcasts.

Turkey altered its constitution in October to allow Kurdish-language television and radio broadcasts–part of a drive to meet European Union human rights standards–but it has yet to change the relevant laws.

"Broadcasts by Gun TV have been stopped for 365 days for playing music pieces with Kurdish lyrics," Turkey’s Radio and Television High Council (RTUK) said in a statement.

"(Gun TV) was in violation of (laws) barring broadcasts that incite society to violence–terrorism and ethnic separatism and incur feelings of hatred in society," the watchdog said.

An RTUK spokeswoman’said the watchdog expects Gun TV to file an appeal once lawmakers make Turkey’s legal code conform with the constitutional changes–but said the ban could still stand.

"These are not just romantic songs–but strongly ideological songs," she said.

The EU has said Turkey must improve its human rights record–including expanding cultural and linguistic rights for its 12 million Kurds–if it is to begin membership talks with the bloc.

RTUK often slaps one- or two-day suspensions on television and radio broadcasters for various infringemen’s but rarely imposes bans for as long as a year.

Gun TV broadcast rallies and meetings organized by the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP)–Turkey’s only legal Kurdish party–which faces possible closure for its alleged ties to Kurdish separatists.

"The decision was completely political. There were no sorts of ‘separatist’ programs being broadcast. It’s a one-sided decision," said Nevzat Bingol–Gun TV’s owner.

Police raided Bingol’s Gun Radyo in November–stopping the radio station’s broadcasts and seizing studio equipment.

Separately–authorities have cracked down in recent weeks on a campaign calling for Kurdish-language instruction in schools.

Police have detained hundreds of university students and parents who signed petitions calling for Kurdish in the classroom. Turkey fears greater Kurdish cultural rights could prompt restive Kurds to demand greater autonomy.

Security forces have fought Kurdish separatists in a 17-year-long conflict that has claimed 30,000 lives–mainly civilians in the southeast.

Violence has all but ceased since the 1999 capture of Kurdish guerrilla commander Abdullah Ocalan. Ocalan–now on death row for treason–has called on his fighters to withdraw from Turkey and seek rights for Kurds through political means.

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