Turkey fights to bottle media genie

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The Independent Online
PIRATE disc jockeys have never had a day like it in Turkey, leading one of the country's first popular revolts against the stifling grey hand of the Turkish state. At issue was the government's belated attempt yesterday to ban private FM radio stations, hundreds of which have sprung up all over Turkey during the past year.

The genie of free information, however, was reluctant to return to the bottle. And it may prove explosive if the government tries next to take on a dozen powerful television stations broadcasting semi-legally for up to four years.

'Power to the people, you are the power,' trumpeted one presenter over defiant foreign tracks like 'Liberation' and 'Paint it Black'. Others preferred local numbers like 'I won't go' and 'I don't want to, Papa' - a pun on the paternalistic nickname of the Turkish Prime Minister, Suleyman Demirel.

As police closed their stations one by one, disc jockeys gave out fax numbers for listeners to send protest notes to the prime minister. Drivers beeped horns, teenagers staged cheerful street protests in Ankara and many people tied black protest ribbons to their windows or car radio aerials.

In the capital and cities of the Anatolian hinterland, security men switched off scores of radio transmitters and sealed their studios. This, most believe, was the state's main objective, not the publicly stated reason that air and maritime frequencies were in danger. Fiery provincial radio stations were often owned by opposition municipalities or even Islamic fundamentalist groups. A voice for the ethnic Kurdish minority in the south-east could only have been a matter of time.

The authorities found it harder in the huge sprawl of Istanbul, where tall buildings on every hill sprout transmission aerials. The city's dozen radio stations tried to defy orders to shut down, but only one or two were left on air late last night.