Turkish prosecutors in Ankara have filed a suit against Afrika, an independent political newspaper in Turkish Cypriot territories in Cyprus (created after Turkey’s invasion into Cyprus in 1974 and recognised by Turkey as Northern Cyprus).
Editor-in-Chief Şener Levent and the Director Ali Osman Tabak are facing defamation charges in two separate cases in Turkey, while further charges of “defaming a foreign politician” have been filed in the Turkish Cypriot territories.
As reported by the International Press Institute’s Free Turkish Journalists website, the accusations are based on two articles, both written by Levent and published on January 21 and February 1. Both harshly criticise Turkey’s politics and the country’s influence over Northern Cyprus.
The January 21 article referred to Turkey’s military operation in Afrin, Syria as a “second invasion”, referring to Turkey’s incursion into Cyprus in 1974 as the “first”.
IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen condemned the charges. He said: “This case is the latest example of Turkey’s attempts to crack down on critical coverage of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government’s policies outside of Turkey”.
Griffen called on Ankara to stop harassing Afrika newspaper. “We urge Northern Cyprus to stand firm in protecting the fundamental rights of press freedom and freedom of expression.”
In a recent interview, Northern Cyprus Prime Minister Tufan Erhürman responded to Turkey’s prosecution of Cypriot journalists. “The constitution is very clear,” he said. “Extradition of journalists [to Turkey] is not even a matter of discussion.”
In other related news, the Cyprus Mail online noted that Turkish investigations and detentions targeting Turkish Cypriot academics and journalists have alarmed the Turkish Cypriot community.
Some academics and journalists have even posted on their social media accounts that they were cancelling planned trips to Turkey.
There are also reports that police in the northern part of Cyprus are arresting people for being in possession of some books and songs. “Police have been harassing people for possession of ‘banned books’,” wrote journalist Sami Ozuslu in Turkish Cypriot daily Yeniduzen. “When were books banned in this country? To add insult to injury, one person has been detained in Famagusta for listening to Kurdish songs. When were songs banned in Cyprus?”