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Cyprus18 December 2001

Stifled by the authorities, an opposition daily winds up

Reporters sans frontières (RSF Reporters Without Borders) denounces the multiple pressures, hindrances and aggressions exerted toward the press during the year 2001 in the Turkish Republic of Cyprus. Stifling the Turkish Cypriot opposition daily Avrupa, compelled to wind itself up this week-end and revive under another name, Afrika, is emblematic of the press general situation worsening in the Turkish part of the island.

According to the information gathered by RSF, the Turkish Cypriot opposition daily Avrupa, known for its dissenting stand toward the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Dentkash and his policy, winded up this week-end, choked by condemnations and fines. The daily, accused and condemned for libelling against Rauf Dentkash in 1999, could not face the damages claimed by the plaintiff, exceeding 200 billion Turkish liras (152 500 euros)

On December 12, the Turkish Cypriot authorities had seized the furniture and equipment as well as the printing material in the daily premises. On December 11, a court had ordered that the newspaper revenues, valued at 5 billion Turkish liras (3820 euros) per week, be seized.

On November 9, the daily’s computers had been seized under the pretext of outstanding taxes. According to Sener Levent, owner and editor in chief of the newspaper, that last seizure was a response to articles in the daily denouncing the threatening tone of the Turkish Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit and the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs, Ismail Cem, when addressing the Republic of Cyprus (South). Indeed, one week before, M. Ecevit had announced that would Cyprus integrate the European Union, Turkey would consider annexing the North of the island it has been occupying since 1974.

On May 24, 2001 a bomb had exploded in the daily printing office buildings in Nicosia without casualties. In the evening of May 23, 2001 more than five hundred insulting messages had been sent to the daily electronic mail. According to researches made by the newspaper Yenicag gazetesi, all these messages were coming from the Army military Academy of the RTCN.

In July 2000, M. Levent and three other journalists of Avrupa had been accused of spying for the Greek part (south) of the island and kept in custody for several days after the newspaper had criticised the presence of 35 000 soldiers in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

Sener Levent, who regularly receives threats on his life stemming, in his own words, from paramilitary forces, justifies the name Africa given to the revived daily, explaining that from now on Cyprus "does not aim at Europe anymore but rather turns to prehistory toward the African continent".

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