Reporters Without Borders is dismayed by the growing frequency of attacks on journalists in Northern Cyprus, in which the latest was a shooting inside the offices of the opposition daily Afrika in Nicosia on 3 July.
“It is intolerable that a gunman was able to enter the premises of Afrika, when he already came to make threats two weeks earlier and shots were fired at the newspaper in February,” Reporters Without Borders said. “At the very least, the security forces have shown serious negligence in this matter. We urge the police and judicial authorities to investigate the possibility that the attacker had accomplices within their ranks.”
Last weekend’s attack on Afrika, which opposes the Turkish presence in Northern Cyprus, was carried out by Mustafa Yalcin, a Turkish citizen who went to the newspaper and asked to speak to the editor, Sener Levent. When told that Levent was not there, Yalcin opened fire without hitting anyone. The police arrested him shortly afterwards, still in possession of his gun.
Yalcin’s photograph had appeared in the press after he announced that he was going to “kill the traitor” in mid-June. When shots were fired at the newspaper on 25 February, Levent was named in a letter left outside, which said: “The next time you make a mistake, you will pay with your life.”
“Does someone have to die before the authorities finally react,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The investigation into Mustafa Yalcin must be transparent and complete, and must not stop short of identifying any instigators.”
After the attacks and threats against TV journalist Mutlu Esendemir and newspaper editor Cenk Mutluyakali (read our 7 April press release below) in April, violence against journalists seems to be a growing trend in the self-proclaimed Republic of Northern Cyprus. After the car bombing in April, Esendemir was the target of a second car bomb in 12 May.
“The Turkish Cypriot authorities must respond to this series of attacks by taking urgent and effective measures to guarantee the safety of journalists,” Reporters Without Borders added. “We call on Northern Cyprus’ partners, above all Turkey, which recently proclaimed its attachment to media freedom, to put pressure on Nicosia to take this problem seriously.”
07.04.2011 - Concern over car bomb attack and threats against journalists
Reporters Without Borders is outraged by a bomb attack during the night of the 5 April 2011 in Nicosia on Mutlu Esendemir, who is the news editor of Kanal T (a Turkish-Cypriot TV station owned by finance minister Ersin Tatar) and a reporter for the Turkish-Cypriot daily Kribrisli.
The improvised explosive device, which was placed underneath Esendemir’s car while he was inside the TV station, exploded as he tried to open the car’s door at about 1 a.m. He was hospitalized with minor leg injuries. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
“A thorough enquiry must be carried out by the authorities to identify not only the perpetrators of this murder attempt but also those behind it,” Reporters Without Borders said. “If this attack goes unpunished it will only encourage the perpetrators to continue their attempts to create a climate of violence, which would have very negative consequences for all the media. We also urge authorities to provide Esendemir and his family with protection if he requests it.”
Reporters Without Borders also strongly condemns the threats made by Mehmet Salih Bayramoglu of the “London Solidarity Association,” a UK-based group that supports Northern Cyprus’s ruling National Unity Party (UBP), against Cenk Mutluyakah, the editor of Turkish-Cypriot opposition daily Yeniduzen.
Using crude and insulting language in an email sent directly to Mutluyakah, Bayramoglu wrote: “You would do well not to underestimate us. You dreamed up this article (…) If you are so sure of yourself, I promise you that we will meet. If you fail to apologize tomorrow in your newspaper, we will show you (…) I expect you to publish an apology to the UBP’s London Solidarity Association or else you will be responsible for what could happen to you.”
The threat was prompted by an article in Yeniduzen that included content originally published by the official Turkish press agency TAK. The TAK story reported that the UPB’s London Solidarity Association had issued a press release in which it apologized for including erroneous Internet links in a letter to the state prosecutor. In the letter, the association accused the general-secretary of the Turkish-Cypriot teachers union, Sener Elcil, of treachery for participating in a demonstration in Brussels denouncing Turkey’s assimilation of Turkish Cypriots.
“We call for an urgent investigation into the president of UPB’s London Solidarity Association, who must take full responsibility for what he writes,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Such remarks are not covered by freedom of expression. Pressure brought to bear in the form of written words couched in such violent terms is unacceptable, especially when they emanate from a well-known individual occupying such a position.”
The organization added: “The attack on Esendemir demonstrates, if it were needed, that such threats should not be taken lightly and that they cannot be allowed to slip by without legal action. To do nothing in this affair would be quite simply intolerable.”