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Eutelsat faces complex dilemma over Kurdish channel

Eutelsat has been ordered by a Paris commercial court to re-instate a highly controversial Kurdish channel. Newroz TV was taken off air by Eutelsat on October 11th, and the satellite operator has been threatened with a fine of €10,000 a day if it doesn’t comply with the court order.

However, the situation is extremely complicated. The actual contract to carry the channel, itself based in Sweden, was held by Belgium Satellite Services which is in liquidation according to Belgium court filings.

Newroz TV was being carried via a contract with a Swedish company, Stiftelsen Kurdish Media (SKM).  The Parisian court ruled on November 14 that “the interruption of transmission … was a clear violation” and provoked a disorder and “obviously manifestly unlawful” for the Swedish company.

At the request of the RTÜK, the Turkish authority regulating radio and television, Eutelsat had to suspend the broadcasting of Med TV and NUCE Newroz TV. The reason given: these chains would be supported by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), a movement on the list of terrorist organisations of the European Union (EU).

Besides the contractual complications, Eutelsat is also in something of a bind given that Turkey used as the foundation of its argument a formal Council of Europe (CoE) treaty obligations under the CoE’s European Convention on Transfrontier Television Broadcasting (Treaty No. 132).  Neither Belgium or Sweden are signatories to this Treaty.

There is no comment from Eutelsat as to its next action, but it is likely that they will be obliged to inform the Court of these challenges.

Faruk Nozhatzadeh, head of Newroz TV, according to AFP, said after the verdict: “They shut our news channel without evidence; that should not happen in Europe. In the countries we come from, these things happen every day… but in Europe it was shocking that Eutelsat took such a decision.”

The channel – amongst others – was taken down following formal complaints from Turkey’s audiovisual authority (RTÜK) of having links with the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Paris court found that the claimed links between Newroz TV and the PKK had not been proved.

Nozhatzadeh, whose station transmits from a Stockholm suburb, admitted that his channel supports all the Kurdish political parties but “that doesn’t mean that we have connections” to them. “We have shown the reality like all the other news channels. We have followed all the laws in Sweden.”

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