Journalist facing jail term in defamation trial next month in Northern Cyprus
With a month to go before the start of the trial, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for the acquittal of the Turkish Cypriot journalist Ali Kişmir who faces a ten-year prison sentence for “insulting and defaming” the security forces in a newspaper article three years ago.
Update on October 25, 2023: Ali Kismir's judicial nightmare continues at the District Court on October 27. The court could decide, after hearing witnesses, to dismiss the case and acquit him or to transfer the trial to the High Criminal Court.
Journalist and president of the Turkish Cypriot Journalists Union (Basin-Sen), Ali Kişmir is due to be tried on 6 October by the High Criminal Court of Northern Cyprus, a self-proclaimed republic that is recognised internationally only by Türkiye.
Kişmir is well known for his writings critical of the Ankara-backed president of Northern Cyprus, the Turkish Cypriot politician Ersin Tatar, and he has often been targeted by the territory’s authorities.
He is being tried on a charge of “insulting and defaming” the legal entity of the Security Forces Command” in a 2020 article in the daily newspaper Afrika, alleging that Turkish officials held meetings in a security forces building in order to meddle in Turkish Cypriot elections. He described the building as a “brothel where the will of Turkish Cypriots is sold and bought.”
“By denouncing Türkiye's meddling in Turkish Cypriot elections, Ali Kişmir was just doing his job as a journalist. This abusive prosecution is nothing but an attempt by the Turkish Cypriot authorities to intimidate and muzzle journalists. We ask the court to take account of the public interest served by his article and to dismiss the proceedings against him.
During the 2020 election campaign, RSF expressed concern about the enormous amount of pressure that Ankara was putting on the Turkish Cypriot media. Kişmir was described as an “enemy of Türkiye” because of his criticism of Tatar, the then Ankara-backed AKP presidential candidate.
Northern Cyprus is ranked 76th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2023 World Press Freedom Index.