Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika and its staff have been seriously threatened since the newspaper published a cartoon of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan which is considered as an insult by Turkish authorities, media reported.
The cartoon, published by Afrika on 14 December under the title “Through Greek eyes”, shows a Greek statue urinating on the head of President Erdogan. The visual had been originally published in a Greek daily.
Following the publication, parties and groups of Turkish nationals have been staging protests outside the offices of Afrika, some of them throwing eggs at the building that houses the daily, media added, and some organisations have threatened the newspaper and its authors and demanded it cease being published.
In addition, Turkey’s ‘embassy’ in the north of Cyprus announced it has filed a criminal complaint against Afrika, while Turkish Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Cyprus Affairs, Recep Akdag, called on regional ‘prosecutors’ to bring the daily to justice, according to media.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) backs its two national affiliates, the Union of Press Workers (Basin-Sen) and the Union of Cyprus’ Journalists (ESK), and urges freedom of expression to be fully respected on the island.
“How can the minister of another country say that he will act to punish the newspapers and writers of another country and will openly intervene in the courts in Cyprus?,” said Basin-Sen’s President, Ali Kismir. “We cannot accept this step that is undemocratic, thus it is not possible for us to remain silent.”
A delegation of ESK, headed by the union’s chairman, Giorgos Frangos, visited the Afrika’s offices in northern Nicosia and met with the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Sener Levent, who said that he will appeal to European institutions over his persecution. Frangos said that ESK views the attacks against Levent and Afrika as an “attack against free speech, pluralism and democracy”, and pledged the union’s support.
“This campaign against Afrika newspaper by Turkish authorities seems a clear attempt to put pressure on Cypriot journalists and to put press freedom behind bars, as they have done in Turkey,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “The IFJ strongly condemns any action taken by Turkey to intervene in the Cyprian jurisdiction in order to punish media and suppress press freedom.”