(CN) – A now-defunct Danish TV network slapped with a criminal conviction and license revocation for broadcasting what Denmark said was terrorism-friendly programming lost its challenge at Europe’s human rights court, which ruled Thursday the broadcasts were propaganda and not protected speech.
Roj TV offered programming mainly in Kurdish throughout Europe and the Middle East until 2010, when the Danish government filed terror-related criminal charges against the network. Denmark accused Roj TV of promoting the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK – designated as a terrorist organization by the European Union, United States and Canada, United Kingdom and Australia – by only giving the PKK’s side of the story.
Initially found guilty of promoting a terrorist organization and fined nearly $350,000 by the Copenhagen City Court, the High Court of Denmark reviewed the case and found Roj TV had been broadcasting PKK propaganda for longer than initially thought. That court upped the fine to nearly $800,000 and revoked the network’s license.
The network declared bankruptcy in 2013 and lost its bid to have its broadcasting license reinstated in 2014. Roj TV then lodged a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights, claiming the criminal conviction and revocation of its license violated its right to free expression.
But on Thursday, the Strasbourg-based court ruled the right to free expression doesn’t extend to the broadcast of views that run counter to the EU’s convention on human rights – namely programming meant to incite violence and in support of terrorist activity.
Furthermore, the court found PKK had been financing Roj TV for years.
“In the present case, the court attaches significant weight to the fact that in the proceedings before the national courts, the City Court found that the one-sided coverage with repetitive incitement to participate in fights and actions, incitement to join the organization/the guerrilla, and the portrayal of deceased guerrilla members as heroes, amounted to propaganda for the PKK, a terrorist organization, and that it could not be considered only a declaration of sympathy,” the 7-judge panel wrote.
“In addition, the applicant company had been financed to a significant extent by the PKK in the years 2006 to 2010. Furthermore, the High Court of Eastern Denmark found explicitly that, having regard to the content, presentation and connection of the programs of the applicant company, the case concerned the promotion of the PKK´s terror operation,” the judges added.
The panel unanimously rejected Roj TV’s complaint as inadmissible and incompatible with EU human rights law.
Roj TV had frequent tussles with media regulators across the European Union before going dark in 2012. Its predecessor MED TV was shut down by British officials in 1999 over programming “likely to encourage or incite crime or lead to disorder.”
MEDYA TV then took over, setting up shop in Belgium via a French satellite uplink until French authorities yanked the license in 2004 over the network’s unbridled support of the PKK. MEDYA became Roj and moved to Denmark after that.
Germany also banned Roj TV from broadcasting in 2008 and the network shuttered its production unit there as a result.