EFJ Letter of Protest about Press Freedom Violations in Cyprus

Mr. Mehmet Ali Talat
Leader of the Turkish Cypriot Community

Mr. Tayip Erdogan
Prime Minister of Turkey

Mr Michael Moller
Special Representative of the UN

Brussels, 1st September 2006

Dear Sirs,

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), representing over 250.000 journalists across Europe, is deeply concerned by the increasing threats to press freedom in northern Cyprus. In particular, we find it unacceptable that journalists and media workers are being intimidated and arrested while covering events in the northern part of Cyprus.

The latest example of this was the arrest of reporter Adonis Pallikarides and cameraman Nikitas Dalitis on 25 August 2006 under the pretext that they were “videotaping military installations” on a shopping-street in Nicosia. After their arrest, the two reporters were detained for several days and convicted to pay a fine.

Following these events, several media organisation from both communities of Cyprus issued statements and organised demonstrations.

In the Republic of Cyprus, a meeting of press unions representing all sectors of the media took place in Nicosia on 29 August to denounce the “intimidations and the brutal actions of the Turkish occupation forces against media workers.” They called on national authorities and international organizations to respect basic human rights principles such as freedom of expression and press freedom. Journalists at the meeting also considered refusing assignments in northern Cyprus in order to avoid the harassment and threats they could face while working there.

In northern Cyprus, media unions gathered on 31 August to denounce the “incorrect and arbitrary practices” against the Turkish Cypriot people, who have faced intimidation, arrest and detention in a territory that is considered almost exclusively as a “Military Restricted Zone” by the authorities.

The threats to journalists and media workers are reaching an intolerable level. We condemn the systematic use of special military regulations in the territory that is considered a “restricted zone.” This constitutes a flagrant violation of the right of people to know what their administration is doing and of the right of journalists to provide that information.

The people of Cyprus need to be informed about the situation on the island and about the on-going talks for a settlement of the political problem that has been going on for several decades. As we know, at this very moment a dialogue between representatives of the two communities under the auspices of the UN is going on in Nicosia and we believe that this crucial matter of respect of the press freedom could be a very good measure of building confidence.

We call on Turkish forces and authorities in northern Cyprus to respect the fundamental right of freedom of expression, as protected by Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 10 of the European Convention for Human Rights. Freedom of the press cannot exist if journalists live in fear and worry that their work will put them in danger.

We urge you to allow journalists to report without undue threats and interference throughout the territory of northern Cyprus.

Yours Sincerely,

Aidan White, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists
Arne König, Chair, European Federation of Journalists