North Nicosia court urged to uphold acquittal of two journalists
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on a North Nicosia higher court to confirm the
acquittal of two newspaper journalists in Turkish-recognized Northern Cyprus who were
facing up to five years in prison if convicted of insulting and defaming Turkish President
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Şener Levent, the editor of the North Nicosia-based daily Afrika, and Ali Osman Tabak, one of his journalists, were acquitted in April 2019 on charges with defaming and insulting a foreign leader and “inciting hatred against a foreign leader with the aim of spoiling the friendly and peaceful relations between the two countries.”
The case was brought against them after a cartoon showing a Greek statue urinating on Erdoğan’s head was published in their newspaper and on social media.
“We urge the North Nicosia high court to confirm the acquittal, which was the subject of an appeal by the attorney-general’s office on 25 May,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “Convicting the two journalists would be a grave error and would send an extremely negative signal to the media in the northern part of Cyprus.”
Adès-Mével added: “At a time when Ankara is maintaining an enormous amount of pressure on the Turkish media, and the Turkish Cypriot media are being harassed more and more, we call on the northern part of Cyprus to shake off this domination and to assert its independence.”
Pressure has been growing on journalists of late with regard to their coverage of Turkey and its policies towards Cyprus. Some have received “warnings” from Turkish officials and some censor themselves because they fear a crackdown on the media similar to what has happened in Turkey.
Northern Cyprus is ranked 74th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.