National legislation protects freedom of the press, but, at the same time but at the same time allows it to be limited to protect public order, national security and public decency. The issue of media ownership, increasing lawsuits against journalists, and Turkey’s growing pressure on the sector are affecting press freedom.
There are several newspapers, TV channels, radio stations and online-only outlets in Northern Cyprus. Most media owners are businessmen with other financial interests. Pluralism is being threatened by lawsuits against the media, direct interference in editorial work, and growing media concentration in the hands of Turkish businessmen. Self-censorship is widespread. Ankara’s pressure is felt through verbal attacks and lawsuits in Turkey. Informal, close, financial relationships between politicians and media owners affect the independence of editorial content.
Turkey’s increasing pressure has a negative impact on freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Sanctions and prosecution, including criminal proceedings, are being brought against journalists who criticise the Turkish or Turkish Cypriot government, military, or authorities. While an opposition journalist faces criminal charges for criticising the Turkish military, three journalists have been denied entry into Turkey, and others have been fired or forced to resign after criticising Turkish policies or Turkish Cypriot politicians. Public media are under the control of the government.
Legislation protects press freedom as it limits it to protect public order, national security, and public decency. Defamation is a crime, and there are no laws for the protection of sources. Turkish Cypriot authorities are trying to amend existing legislation to further limit freedom of expression. Journalists face prosecution in absentia in Turkey. One journalist has filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) for having had his freedom of expression hampered by a series of lawsuits in Turkey and north Cyprus. Cases are brought against the media with large sums of money being demanded.
The media have been hard hit by the economic crisis caused by the devaluation of the Turkish lira. Their dependence on advertising and sponsorships has increased commercial influence over editorial content. Many media outlets are changing owners due to economic hardship. The daily newspaper Kibris was sold to a Turkish businessman. Many journalists have taken on PR jobs, which affects their objectivity. Certain journalists’ attempts to blackmail politicians have been denounced by the profession.
Although there are no serious threats or physical attacks, an increasing number of journalists have been subjected to verbal attacks and harassment campaigns by Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities. Reporters are also often victims of online harassment.