EFJ Says Journalists’ Arrests in Northern Cyprus Undermine Turkey’s Plan to Increase Press Freedom

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Europe’s largest journalists’ group, today condemned the arrest of two French TV journalists in Northern Cyprus, saying the arrests overshadowed plans by the Turkish authorities to reform press freedom laws.

On Sunday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan announced that he was prepared to amend laws limiting free speech. The same day in Northern Cyprus, however, the Turkish army arrested two French Journalists for allegedly violating the military restricted area by filming in the city of Varosha.

After one day of detention, the journalists were freed and fined 300 Cyprus pounds. The Turkish Cypriot journalists’ organization Basin-Sen paid the fine for David Muntaner, a reporter, and Frédéric Bak, a cameraman. Both men work for German-French public channel ARTE. They were legally operating in Cyprus last week at the time of their arrest.

“The EFJ welcomes Prime Minister Erdogan’s new initiative,” said EFJ Chair Arne König, “but these words are meaningless if authorities continue to harass and detain Cypriot and foreign journalists in the northern part of Cyprus.”

In August, the EFJ protested the arrest of two Greek Cypriot journalists who were arrested in similar conditions. Authorities claimed that they were filming at a banned military zone and their material was confiscated.

“Journalists once again became the victim of outworn laws and their practitioners,” Basin-Sen said in a statement today. The Union of Cyprus Journalists said it “condemned this new case of violation of the journalists' rights and of the press freedom.”

“We strongly condemn the arrests of journalists who are just doing their job,” said König. “We repeat our calls for Turkish and Turkish Cypriot authorities to respect basic principles of press freedom.”

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The EFJ represents more than 260,000 journalists in over 30 countries