The criminal code in the Turkish-Cypriot part of the island still allows journalists to be imprisoned for what they write. Between August and October 2002, the editor and a reporter of the daily paper Afrika (formerly Avrupa) were jailed in Nicosia for criticising Turkish-Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash in a 1999 article. More than 100complaints were filed by the Turkish-Cypriot authorities against Afrika and its journalists for "insulting the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus" or for inciting people to break the law. These journalists received regular death threats.
Some media with ties to the northern authorities accuse Turkish-Cypriot journalists who are in contact with Greek-Cypriot colleagues or European Union representatives and who support peace and reunification of being traitors.
New information about
a journalist killed in 1996
Intruders tried to break into the home of Ilkay Adali, widow of murdered journalist Kutlu Adali, on 6 September. Her dog was found dead in front of the house. Mrs Adali, whose phone is tapped and regularly cut off, thinks such harassment is to get her to drop the family’s complaint before the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey in 1996 for failing to properly investigate her husband’s death. A decision in the case was expected in January 2003.
Adali, a columnist for the left-wing Turkish-Cypriot daily Yenidüzen, was killed in front of his house on 6 July 1996. He had reported on the involvement of a former senior officer of the Turkish armed forces in northern Cyprus in an attack on a monastery and the misuse of vehicles of the civil defence force, which is linked with the northern Cyprus prime minister. Nobody dared to give evidence about the killing, which remains unsolved.
Two journalists arrested
Memduh Ener (columnist) and Sener Levent (editor) of the daily paper Afrika, were jailed for six months by a Nicosia court on 2 August 2002 for "possibly upsetting the president in his conduct of his duties." The conviction was based on an article in the paper (then called Avrupa) on 29 July 1999 that ended with a game in which the reader was invited to decide "who is enemy number one." One suggested answer was "Rauf Denktash, president of the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus." The Turkish-Cypriot supreme court ruled on 3 October that the sentence was too harsh, cut it to six weeks and the journalists were freed at once.
Sener Levent, editor of Afrika, along with his staff, friends and family, regularly received threats until mid-November. While he was in prison, his daughter received an anonymous call threatening to kill her father "like a dog." Levent told the police but said he thought those making the threats were protected by the authorities.
Hasan Keskin, a columnist with the newspaper Volkan, published by an organisation close to Denktash, criticised Afrika on 23 July for supporting the UN-proposed reunification plan. He said Afrika journalists had betrayed their country and that it was "halal" (legitimate) to drink their blood.
A journalist physically attacked
Ali Riza Tig, correspondent in the northwestern town of Zonguldak for the privately-owned TV station ATV and publisher of the regional monthly Pusula, was attacked by an armed thug on 10 February. He was taken to hospital with an injured foot and several people were later arrested. The journalist had often criticised shady elements active in the town. Kadir Tuncer, publisher of the Zonguldak newspaper Susma, said Tig had been already been physically attacked twice for what he had written.
Pressure and obstruction
Charges were laid before the criminal court on 10 January against Nilgün Orhon, of the daily Afrika, and its editor Sener Levent, after an editorial in the paper on 16 November 2001 criticising the absence of democracy, freedom and security in the country. The journalists were accused of incitement to hatred against "the Turkish republic of Northern Cyprus" and to law-breaking by citizens. A first hearing in the case was held on 7 November 2002 and at the end of the year, they were waiting for the verdict.
Charges were filed against Afrika journalist Yalcin Okut on 15 January in connection with an article he wrote on 9 April 2001 proclaiming the innocence of a Greek-Cypriot arrested by Turkish-Cypriot forces in what he said was a reprisal for the arrest of a Turkish-Cypriot by Greek-Cypriot officials. The journalist was accused of undermining the conduct of a trial and encouraging law-breaking. The case was due to be heard on 5 February 2003.
Several dozen complaints were filed on 22 April 2002 before a military court against Afrika editor Levent and four of the paper’s journalists - Ali Osman, Suzan Karaman, Nilgün Orhon and Ozker Ozgur - and the paper itself for "insulting the Northern Cyprus security forces" in articles in July and August 1999 about the army’s eviction of a Turkish-Cypriot family from their home. Most of the cases were due to be heard on 7 January 2003.
The first hearing was held on 28 August 2002 of a case against Afrika for an editorial it printed on 21 March criticising the army’s seizure of a pass held by reporter Nilgün Orhon allowing her, as the daughter of an official "martyr", to buy food at an army-run market. The paper was accused of insulting a foreign power (Turkey) and harming relations between it and Northern Cyprus.
The 9, 10 and 16 July issues of the newspaper Volkan dubbed as "traitors" daily paper journalists Hasan Hastürer (of Kibris), Hasan Kahvecikogli (of Ortam) and Sevgul Uludag (of Yenidüzen). It accused them of attending secret meetings in Germany with Karen Fogg, the former European Union representative in Turkey, of training in the United States to brainwash 300 Turkish-Cypriots and meeting with Greek-Cypriots to discuss a negotiated resolution of the island’s partition.
Ten Spanish journalists, including Xavier Vidal, editor of the daily El País, were deported to the southern part of the island on 14 October after meeting with NGOs, the media and civil society groups in the northern part. They were accused of holding illegal meetings and giving "false information" to Turkish-Cypriot border officials. The group had attended a conference in the southern part on enlarging the European Union and had entered the north on tourist visas.
Another trial of Afrika journalists Memduh Ener and Sener Levent began on 20 November for "incitement to hatred against the army" in an article on 16 October 2001 criticising military interference in civilian life.
The trial opened on 21 November of freelance opposition journalist Oya Gürel, Afrika journalists Kazim Denizci and Ali Osman and Sevgul Uludag, of the daily Yenidüzen, for "trespassing in a public building." They had covered a demonstration on 15 October by members of a teachers’ union at a secondary school and police had tried to expel the journalists. The demonstrators were protesting against the dismissal from her teaching post of Afrika journalist Nilgün Orhon because of an article she had written on 10December 2001. The hearing was set for 17 January 2003 and the journalists face two years in prison.