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Cyprus (Northern part)7 May 2004

Reporters Without Borders condemns bombing of main Turkish-Cypriot newspaper

Reporters Without Borders condemned an overnight attack on the offices of daily Kibris newspaper in which three separate bombs exploded, in the north of Nicosia, in the "Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" (recognised only by Turkey). No-one was hurt.

The international press freedom organisation urged the leader of the Turkish-Cypriot community Rauf Denktash to do everything possible to find and punish the perpetrators of this unacceptable act of intimidation in an exemplary fashion. It also urged him to take the necessary steps to guarantee the safety of journalists.

Three small home-made bombs exploded in front of the newspaper’s offices just before midnight on 6-7 May, but caused no damage. No group has admitted responsibility and an investigation has been launched.

Editor Basaran Duzgun said he thought paramilitary and ultra-nationalist groups could be behind the attack on the paper.

The newspaper had backed the UN peace plan to reunify the island, which has been divided since Turkey invaded in 1974 in reaction to a Greek-Cypriot ultra-nationalist coup that tried to make it part of Greece.

He said that Kibris journalists and their families had received a number of death threats in the months preceding the 24 April 2004 referendum on the reunification of the island. At the time the newspaper chose not to make these threats public and sought police protection.

Owner of the newspaper, Asil Nadir, said that the threats would not prevent the newspaper from "continuing to support a peaceful solution for the island."

Greek-Cypriots overwhelmingly rejected the UN plan in the referendum while Turkish Cypriots largely approved it. Only the southern part of Cyprus therefore became part of the European union on 1st May. After the referendum, Kibris called for the resignation of Mr Denktash, who strongly opposed the peace plan.

In its 2004 annual report, Reporters Without Borders strongly condemned increased press freedom violations in the northern part of Cyprus. "Journalists were targeted who criticised the policies of Rauf Denktash, had ties with Greek-Cypriot colleagues or EU representatives or who favoured the island’s reunification and EU membership", the organisation said.

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