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Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Journalists

Staff at Cypriot paper fear for their lives


4 March 2011

Death-threat editor thanks CIoJ for support

By Amanda Brodie and Campbell Thomas

STAFF at a Turkish Cypriot newspaper, whose editor has received death threats, have spoken of fears for their safety.

Two shots were fired at the northern Cyprus building of the daily paper Afrika, (February 25) and a note was left threatening editor Sener Levent that if he continued writing, he would be killed.

Speaking to the Chartered Institute of Journalists this week (3 March) Mr Levent’s brother Osman, a reporter on the paper, said: “We are very grateful and pleased to have your support and will keep you updated with events over here – if we are still alive.”

He added they hoped the Turkish authorities would note their reaction was being monitored internationally.

Mr Levent said: “We are all targets, especially Sener. We get these threatening calls from Turkish nationalists, and they tell us what they want to do to us.

“The latest was the two gunshots at the door. They left a note that said: ‘To Sener. This time we do it like this, but next time you won’t be alive.’

“They don’t like us because we want to decide our future as Cypriots, and they take their orders from Turkey. We don’t like Turkey telling us what to do, so they don’t like what we write – but we will keep writing.”

Afrika journalists joined thousands of Turkish Cypriots who marched on Wednesday (March 2) in the Turkish sector of the divided Cypriot capital, Nicosia, protesting at Ankara-inspired spending cuts.

In one of the biggest demonstrations ever seen in north Cyprus, the underlying message from the estimated 25,000 protesters was resentment at what they see as efforts by Turkey to exert more control over the Turkish Cypriots.

Police confronted Sener Levent and Afrika staff and seized flags of the internationally-recognised Republic of Cyprus. Hundreds waved banners reading, “This is our country, let’s run it ourselves” and “Take your hands off Turkish Cypriots” The presence of such flags angered Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan at a previous demonstration in Nicosia in January.

The CIoJ said: “We completely condemn the threats against Mr Levent, and are happy to support our colleagues in the Greek Cypriot Journalists’ Union (ESK) who have called for the international community to speak out about this intimidation.

“This is not just a threat to an individual, but to freedom of the Press, and to democracy itself. This sort of criminal act should not be tolerated, and we call on the Turkish authorities to act swiftly to ensure the safety of journalists in northern Cyprus.”

The CIoJ has contacted the Turkish Consul-General in London to express concern at the situation.


Notes for editors

• In 2001 a bomb destroyed Afrika’s printing presses. No one was ever arrested for the attack.

• In July 1996, Turkish Cypriot journalist and writer Kutlu Adali, a strong critic of the practices and policies of Turkey, was gunned down outside his home.