Turkish Cypriot Newspaper AVRUPA Firebombed

THE International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists organization and its regional organization the European Federation of Journalists have condemned the firebombing of the printing office of Turkish Cypriot daily AVRUPA. Extensive damage was caused and the printing house is no longer operating.

AVRUPA's printing office was set on fire during the night of November 26th with a petrol bomb. The press printing machine and a large amount of paper were burned.

The IFJ is concerned about the attack which follows a period of court fines and official harassment designed to try to close down the newspaper.

The IFJ has been following the case of AVRUPA since January when the paper was accused of incitement and defamation of the government. More protest followed in February and June. Hearings against the paper started on May 26th before an unrecognised "criminal court" in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus, on 75 lawsuits against AVRUPA for "instigating hatred against the Turkish republic of North Cyprus and the Turkish army". For each lawsuit the military and the police demand five years imprisonment for the editor-in-chief Mr. Sener Levent and five other journalists of AVRUPA.

In July, Sener Levent and two journalists of AVRUPA were detained and accused of treason and espionage. The IFJ responded by organizing a fact-finding mission to Cyprus.

The IFJ believes these court proceedings are designed to prevent legitimate journalistic inquiry and constitute a severe breach of the right to freedom of expression. "This latest attack is a sinister development", said Aidan White, General Secretary to the IFJ. "It suggests a new phase of violent intimidation to accompany the quasi-legal pressure on AVRUPA. We strongly condemn this latest outrage. The authorities in North Cyprus must learn to live with legitimate professional criticism of their actions by journalists and they must arrest the people responsible for this attack and bring them to justice."