1311) TRT to rebroadcast documentary accusing Sweden of genocide

‘Freedom of the press is an essential principle for Sweden, thus I never contacted either the Foreign Ministry or TRT,’ says Swedish Ambassador Asp

In the Swedish capital to pick up his Nobel Prize, writer Orhan Pamuk vowed to leave politics. But politics are not easily leaving Pamuk, as a skirmish continues over an anti-Pamuk and anti-Swedish television documentary and its on-again, off-again broadcast schedule. . .

At issue is a documentary prepared by the Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT). Broadcast first on Monday, after the controversial writer picked up his award, it not only accuses Pamuk of getting the nod from the Swedish Academy due to “political concerns,” it also alleges a “Swedish genocide.” Pamuk, of course, won himself accusations of treason from nationalist circles for accepting allegations waged against Turkey that it committed a “genocide” against its Armenian population in the early 20th century. Pamuk stood trial on charges of “insulting Turkishness” after he told a Swiss magazine last year that “1 million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in these lands.”

The controversy stalking Pamuk was revived in the documentary, part of a series titled “Between Borders,” produced and presented by journalist Banu Avar. In addition to repeating the well-known charges against Pamuk, it also alleged that Sweden committed genocide against its native Sami people, sometimes known as “Laps,” as well as against its Roma minority in persecutions that lasted up until the 1980s.

Subsequent media coverage includes reports saying that Swedish Ambassador Christer Asp was so annoyed at the portrayal of his country that he contacted both the TRT administration and the Foreign Ministry to express his displeasure. And as a result, TRT cancelled plans to show the documentary another seven or eight times.

Yet what Asp actually did was sit in front of his television on Tuesday night to watch a rerun of the documentary since he had been unable to view it on Monday. The rerun was cancelled, however, and so without seeing it, he sent an e-mail to Avar in which he expressed his feelings of disappointment over reports of the documentary's content and asked Avar to kindly send him a copy.

“For reasons unknown to me, this documentary appears to have painted a distorted picture of Sweden including serious absurd and unfounded accusations -- that the genocide should have been carried out in Sweden up until the 1980s against the Sami population and travelers' accusations, which also appear on TRT website. I would appreciate if you could send me a copy of the program in order for me to make a more detailed assessment of this matter,” Asp read out the message he sent to Avar during a an interview yesterday with the Turkish Daily News.

The ambassador also insisted that while he had sent an e-mail to the film's producer, he never contacted any government officials. “Freedom of the press is an essential principle for Sweden, thus I never contacted either the Foreign Ministry or TRT,” he said.

Avar, meanwhile, shot back at the diplomat, arguing in her own correspondence that she "didn't invent the genocide and that continuation of this genocide up until the 1980s was a fact confirmed by Swedish scientists and historians.” She also said she needed to seek the approval of the TRT directors before sending a copy.

The ambassador will still get his chance to see the film. After the earlier cancellation, TRT has reconsidered and now plans to broadcast the show today (Saturday). A TRT official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the TDN that the after cancelling the documentary amid an “assessment,” the network now plans to show it under the principle of freedom of the press and also because of huge public demand from those who were unable to watch it when it was first broadcast on Monday.

The same official, nevertheless, could not give any clear explanation as to why TRT gave an ongoing inquiry as the reason behind the cancellation of the first rerun but was still able to rebroadcast it today, despite the investigation's continuation. Whether it will be repeatedly broadcast as originally planned is also apparently under discussion.

Facts and press freedom:

“I don't mind if programs with various aspects are broadcast, but I expect them to be factual; they should carry a minimum level of decency. The whole thing seems a little outrageous,” Asp said, while describing Avar's argument as “a serious, however, totally unfounded and absurd allegation.”

“I would be surprised if there is no form of self-censorship when the issue is about extreme allegations against a country,” he added.

Avar's documentary focuses on Pamuk's award and connects it to Sweden's history, which she says is one of genocide. “Pamuk was awarded a Nobel Prize because he denied his own identity,” she argued.

Members of the Turkish media have been divided over the issue, with some saying that what Avar faced was a double standard in the name of freedom of the press and others arguing that the documentary would only serve the interests of nationalist circles who seek to distance Turkey from its goal of European Union membership via a portrayal of EU member states in an unflattering light.

However, few seem to have actually watched the documentary -- which TRT had planned to show a total of eight times.

As of Friday, the documentary was on TRT's Web site, scheduled for broadcast on TRT-2; thus those who wish to assess it for themselves will probably be able to do so, if there is no last-minute change of mind by TRT officials.

December 16, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Pamuk woes linger on with 'Swedish genocide' charge
Did Orhan Pamuk win his Nobel Prize for accepting a Turkish ‘genocide’?
Did his Swedish hosts commit a ‘genocide’ of their own?
See it all today on TRT 2 at 11:10 a.m. The film that has the Swedish ambassador fuming may well not be aired again

ANKARA - Turkish Daily News

Turkey's Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk may be leaving politics behind, but politics still hasn't finished with Pamuk.

Much of the controversy at home that stalked Pamuk on his way to the Swedish capital turned on his apparent embrace last year of a hotly disputed charge that the Ottoman Empire committed “genocide” against its Armenian population in the early 20th century. His remarks in support of that allegation landed him in court briefly and offended many in Turkey.

Well, said a nationalist-toned documentary on state-run broadcaster TRT Monday night, Sweden has its own “genocide” to own up to and Pamuk only received the most prestigious award in literature for taking a line against his own homeland.

The broadcast has prompted an exchange of emails between the Swedish ambassador and the woman behind the documentary, with the latter standing firm in defense of her work. It has also apparently triggered debate and confusion within the ranks of TRT. First a second run of the film was cancelled, along with plans for future showings. Now it's back on the broadcast schedule for tonight, at least; whether future showings will be allowed has yet to be decided.

At issue is a documentary that is part of a series titled “Between Borders,” produced and presented by journalist Banu Avar. In addition to repeating the well-known charges against Pamuk, it also alleges that Sweden committed genocide against its native Sami people, sometimes known as “Laps,” as well as against its Roma minority in persecutions that lasted until the 1980s.

Swedish Ambassador Slams Turkish Documentary
Paul O'Mahony www.thelocal.se
AINA, CA Assyrian International News Agency Dec 18 2006

A documentary film accusing Sweden of genocide against its Sami and Roma populations has angered many Turkish television viewers and media commentators since going to air last week.

Sweden's Ambassador to Turkey, Christer Asp, spoke to The Local about the divisive documentary and the probability of a link to the announcement of Orhan Pamuk as this year's winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature.

"The film says things about Sweden that are less than nice. Some parts are fictitious and include serious allegations of abuse," said Asp.

The ambassador finally got to see the film on Saturday, but readily admits that he had difficulty following it as his Turkish is not quite up to scratch. He has however been fully briefed as to the content of the film and is none too impressed.

"For example, the journalist says that Swedes are all drunkards and that the men beat their wives because women have been given too many freedoms," said the ambassador.

By the time he sat down to watch the film last Tuesday, national broadcaster TRT had responded to the heated reaction by removing it from the schedule. Not knowing that the station would later rerun the film, the ambassador entered into an e-mail exchange with journalist and film-maker Banu Avar.

"I asked if I could have a copy of the film. To which she said that she would have to consult with TRT's directors.

"She then went on to say that the allegations of genocide were factual and were well known among scientists and historians. After that I discontinued the dialogue," said Asp.

The documentary was due to be shown eight times in total last week but was removed from weekday scheduling after Monday's hotly debated debut. It was however eventually shown again on Saturday and Sunday.

According to the ambassador, the matter has been the subject of some debate in Turkey over the past week.

"It has been widely debated that the film may have centred on Sweden because of Orhan Pamuk getting the Nobel Prize for literature.

"Interviews with Horace Engdahl from the Swedish Academy, for example, were carried out after Pamuk was named this year's winner.

"The prize was also announced on the same day that the parliamentary assembly in France announced that it was not permissible to deny the Armenian genocide, which is a very sensitive issue in Turkey. And Pamuk has been persecuted for claiming that it really happened.

Much of the film consisted of an attempt to link Pamuk's "anti-Turkish" accusations with Sweden's perceived denial of its own genocidal past.

"Pamuk was awarded a Nobel Prize because he denied his own identity," said Banu Avar, according to Turkish Daily News.

A number of the ambassador's friends from the Turkish foreign ministry called to express their surprise. But he has not discussed the matter at an official level.

"We have freedom of expression in Sweden and I am not going to contact the foreign ministry or TRT.

"I don't mind debating a programme that is critical of Sweden but I would expect it to be factual and to meet a minimum level of decency.

"This it failed to do and I would expect any media to think twice before broadcasting such serious allegations," said Asp.


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