Union urges government to protect Turkish Cypriot journalists, as Ankara tightens grip in the north

The journalists’ union urged called on the government on Tuesday to take steps to protect two Turkish Cypriot reporters who face trial in Turkey over their criticism of Ankara’s military operation in Syria and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.

Afrika editor and publisher Sener Levent and journalist Ali Osman face trial in Turkey over criticism of  Erdogan’s regime and the president himself.

“Turkish Cypriot co-workers and compatriots Sener Levent and Ali Osman are citizens of the Republic of Cyprus, European citizens,” the union said. “The union of journalists urges the authorities of the Republic of Cyprus to take all necessary measures to protect the two journalists from the wrath of the Erdogan regime.”

Journalists’ views constitute a component of democracy, they are neither prosecuted nor persecuted, or criminalised, the union said.

The Turkish government has purged more than 150,000 civil servants and charged 77,000 people, including journalists, since a failed coup in 2016.

The EU has urged Turkey to release journalists and to give the highest priority to the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights.

It has also launched cross-border operations into Syria against what it says are terrorist threats by the Kurdish YPG militia, which it deems a terrorist organisation linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The purge has also been extended to Cyprus’ occupied areas, raising concerns among Turkish Cypriots.

The union said it will report the matter to the European and the international federations.

In January, a mob attacked Afrika after the daily likened Turkey’s Afrin operation in northern Syria to Ankara’s occupation of the north.

Erdogan had called on his “brothers” in north Cyprus “to give the necessary response”.

Protesters threw rocks and eggs at the building, smashing windows and brought the newspaper’s sign down causing significant damage.

Erdogan supporters in the north were also angered by the publication of a cartoon – originally published in a Greek newspaper — depicting a Greek statue urinating on Erdogan’s head.

Afrika published the cartoon in December last year under the title “Through Greek eyes”.

On Friday, 45 people were detained in the north on suspicion of belonging to the Gulenist movement, which Erdogan accuses of being behind the coup.

Media reports said the 19 former soldiers, nine women, and 17 children, including babies, have already been shipped to Turkey.

The individuals, who were wanted by Ankara, were detained in Kyrenia while trying to escape to Greece.

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