Ruling party says TV channel meets needs of Turkey's Kurds

The launch of Turkey's first Kurdish language channel by the state broadcaster on Jan. 1 is being heralded as a long overdue step towards improving the rights of the country's minority Kurds.

Ruling party says TV channel meets needs of Turkey's Kurds


The launch of Turkey's first Kurdish language channel by the state broadcaster on Jan. 1 is being heralded as a long overdue step towards improving the rights of the country's minority Kurds.

The ruling AK Party said TRT 6 would not be a "propaganda channel" and would sincerely try to meet the needs of Turkey's Kurds, who complain of decades of discrimination.

The latest move, among cultural reforms inspired by Ankara's bid for European Union membership, follows the plan on solving the Kurdish problem required more fundamental political reforms.

"It is significant that a language whose use was previously forbidden and its speakers punished will have 24-hour broadcasts on state television, but I think this is not enough," said Sezgin Tanrikulu, chairman of the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

A test broadcast for the channel, TRT 6, on Dec. 25 began with the Turkish national anthem. The channel will be launched on Jan. 1 with a ceremony which Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan is expected to attend.

Turkey lifted bans on broadcasts in Kurdish in 2002, but bureaucratic resistance has delayed implementation of the reform and the creation of private channels is still blocked, said Tanrikulu. Authorities hope TRT 6 will draw viewers away from popular Danish-based ROJ TV, which they say is a mouthpiece of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The government has pledged $12 billion investment in the region in the next five years as it looks to drain PKK support.


"Minimal political impact"

There was scepticism among analysts about the channel's impact on attitudes in the southeast.

"In terms of having a political impact (on Kurds), it will be very minimal," Cengiz Candar, a leading Turkish political commentator, told Reuters.

Turkey's estimated 12 million Kurds, a sixth of the population, already have access to Kurdish-language channels broadcast from mainly Kurdish northern Iraq and popular Roj TV.

In a report by the TESEV think-tank released on Tuesday, leading figures in southeast Turkey called for the government to take measures ranging from constitutional reform to economic and educational initiatives to solve the Kurdish problem.

The PKK launched its armed bid for a Kurdish homeland in 1984 and the EU and the United States, like Turkey, describe the PKK as a terrorist group.

"The opening of this channel is one of the steps in the democratisation of Turkey," Nihat Ergun, deputy head of the AK Party's parliamentary group, told Reuters.

The channel is being billed as a Kurdish version of the main Turkish language channel TRT 1, with films, soap operas and talk shows. It will not initially carry advertising.

In the largest city of southeast Turkey, Diyarbakir, locals welcomed the benefits it would bring in terms of raising levels of Kurdish, which is not taught in schools. The channel will feature programmes in three Kurdish dialects.

"Kurdish television is something for which I've been longing for years," said shopkeeper Ibrahim Ceylan, 35.

"This will be good for our children. At least they will be able to learn Kurdish better," Ceylan said.

Reuters

Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2008, 16:50
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