The International Federation of Journalists, and its regional group the European Federation of Journalists, today accused the authorities of Northern Cyprus of "willful neglect" over the safety of journalists after a firebomb attack on the independent daily newspaper Avrupa, which destroyed printing presses, paper and other equipment.
"The failure of the authorities to provide adequate protection and security for this targeted newspaper appears to be willful neglect and adds to the fear that the authorities are turning a blind eye to the ongoing campaign to shut down this independent newspaper," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ.
Last year in November, Avrupa's printing office was set on fire with a petrol bomb. The press printing machine and a large amount of paper were burned.
The IFJ is concerned that the latest attack, which follows a period of court fines and official harassment, is part of wide campaign aimed at shutting down the newspaper.
The paper, which is critical of the government of Rauf Denktash, has been a victim of intimidation, court action and official interference for years. In January 2000 the paper was accused of incitement and defamation of the government. Hearings against the paper started on May 26th before an unrecognised "criminal court" in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus. Avrupa faced 75 lawsuits for "instigating hatred against the Turkish republic of North Cyprus and the Turkish army". Military and police prosecutors have sought to jail the editor-in-chief Mr. Sener Levent and five other journalists of Avrupa. In July, Sener Levent and two journalists were briefly detained and accused of treason and espionage.
An IFJ mission to the island at the time accused the authorities of breaching human rights rules and of failing to protect the journalists.
"This latest action shows that the authorities fail to get the message that they must stop all forms of victimization of these journalists. They have committed no crime other than to provide critical journalism and independent scrutiny of those who exercise power, " said Aidan White, "In any other society they would be warmly applauded for their commitment to democracy but in Northern Cyprus today they have become victims of a regime that refuses to protect its citizens and their property."