Denderleeuw – ‘We won!’ An employee of the Kurdish channel RojTV, broadcasting under a Danish license, enters the newsroom with a phone in his hand. He is on the line to Denmark, where the judge just announced the verdict in a case against RojTV, which is accused by the Turkish government of being a terrorist channel. Then everybody cheers: ‘We won!’ Shortly afterwards some people do a Kurdish folk dance, they sing, tears are flowing. RojTV will go on.
Five minutes earlier it’s very silent in the newsroom of RojTV, a satellite channel with millions of viewers in Turkey, surrounding countries and Europe. Everybody nervously awaits the verdict of the Danish judge. Under pressure from Turkey, the prosecutor has opened a case to get RojTV closed down for having ties with terrorism. More precisely: with the Kurdish PKK movement , which is still fighting a bitter war with the Turkish army, from bases in the North of Iraq.
RojTV covers what’s going on in Kurdish areas. Uncensored: funerals, demonstrations, bombardments, arrests. It’s been, to say the least, an irritant for the Turkish government and population for years. The very existence of RojTV and the fact that it is able to broadcast without any trouble from Belgium with a Danish licence, is in Turkish eyes the ultimate proof that Europe doesn’t take Turkey’s ‘fight against terrorism’ seriously.
According to broadcasting coordinator Ferda Cetin, of course RojTV has nothing to do with terrorism, he explains before the verdict is out: ‘We show the daily realities of Kurdistan. And that just doesn’t involve peaceful picnics.’ And the uplifting, sometimes even aggressive music, why is that necessary? Cetin: ‘If there is reason to be angry, we also express that in the music that accompanies the news. That matches the emotions of our viewers.’
Before the judge speaks, the journalists at RojTV have no idea how the verdict will turn out. They trust the Danish judge because, they say, they don’t have ties with the PKK, so nobody can prove these ties exist. On the other hand: the pressure from both Turkey and the United States is enormous. ‘The question is’, says journalist Cahit Mervan, ‘whether the Danish judge will make a political decision, or whether he dares not do that.’
The judge decides RojTV can continue its broadcasting. ‘Democracy does exist!’ one of the journalists cries out in the newsroom after the verdict. The group dancing gets bigger and moves to the studio, from where it goes straight on air. The inhabitants of the sleepy town of Denderleeuw, close to Brussels, probably have no idea what’s going on in that building next to the big Carrefour supermarket.