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Cyprus17 October 2002

Ten Spanish journalists expelled from northern part of island

Reporters Without Borders today denounced the absurdity of rules applying to foreign journalists visiting the Turkish-governed northern part of Cyprus, after the authorities there deported 10 Spanish journalists, including Xavier Vidal, editor of one of Spain’s leading dailies, El Pais, on 14 October for holding "illegal meetings."

"The restrictions imposed on foreign journalists by the Turkish-Cypriot authorities are unacceptable," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Tayyibe Gülek, the Turkish government’s minister of state for Cypriot affairs. "To avoid being spied on and endangering their sources, they are forced, as in Chechnya, to hide the fact they are journalists. We urge you to see that such regulations hampering press freedom are changed," he said.

A group of 16 Spanish people, including the 10 journalists, were expelled to the Greek-Cypriot side of the island by police and foreign ministry press officials after conferring with NGOs, the media and other civil society groups in the north.

There were accused of holding illegal meetings and giving "false information" to Turkish-Cypriot border officials. The group had earlier attended a conference in southern Cyprus on enlarging the European Union and had entered the north on tourist visas.

Foreign journalists wanting to work in the north must inform the press office of the foreign ministry of the so-called "Turkish Republic of North Cyprus," which is not recognised by the international community and must . They also have to be accompanied by a ministry official wherever they go and whenever they interview someone.

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