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Media Watch 2005

03 June 2005
Source: Cyprus Mail
Author: Simon Bahceli
Comment: The following article appeared in the Cyprus Mail of Nicosia on 3 June 2005.
Could Turkey’s draconian new press laws impact on Cyprus?
"JOURNALISTS in the north said yesterday they would act to support colleagues in Turkey falling foul of new laws forbidding the media from expressing views on Cyprus contrary to Turkish state policy... rights activists in Turkey are incensed by the severe restrictions it places on press freedom. Not only does the law restrict journalists from expressing views on Cyprus, including suggestions relating to the removal of military forces... it also could be used against journalists suggesting massacres of Armenians in 1915 actually took place. "Journalists could be sent to prison for up to 15 years for expressing such views," editor of the outspoken [Turkish Cypriot] daily Afrika Sener Levent."

JOURNALISTS in the north said yesterday they would act to support colleagues in Turkey falling foul of new laws forbidding the media from expressing views on Cyprus contrary to Turkish state policy.

The law on Cyprus, which came into effect on Wednesday, is part of a package of far-reaching amendments to Turkey’s penal code. But while the EU has applauded the package, rights activists in Turkey are incensed by the severe restrictions it places on press freedom.

Not only does the law restrict journalists from expressing views on Cyprus, including suggestions relating to the removal of military forces in a way not espoused by official state policy, it also could be used against journalists suggesting massacres of Armenians in 1915 actually took place.

“Journalists could be sent to prison for up to 15 years for expressing such views,” editor of the outspoken daily Afrika Sener Levent told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

“Pro-solution writing in the north will stop,” he added. “And this is something that will be extremely damaging for progress in the north and for Cyprus as a whole.”

More worrying is Levent’s fear that such draconian laws could eventually be imported to the north.

“Turkey’s laws are often applied here. We have already made adjustments to the economy to bring it closer in line with the way things work in Turkey. What’s to prevent amendments to the legal code here?

“There are already plans afoot to scrap colonial laws that are still being used here, which leaves open the possibility that they will be replaced by the kind of laws that have been introduced in Turkey,” Levent said.

“The way the relationship is between the north and Turkey, we cannot guarantee that such laws won’t be applied here.”

Levent believes the new restrictions on reporting on sensitive ‘national issues’ are symptomatic of Turkey’s underlying belief that it will never achieve its aim of becoming a full member of the EU.

“[Prime Minister Tayyip] Erdogan appears to be in support of peace in Cyprus through his support of the new government and support of the Annan plan. But those who create such totalitarian laws cannot truly be in support of a solution.”

The chairman of the north’s Union of Jouranlists (BASINSEN), Kemal Darbaz, was insistent, however, that new Turkish laws applying to the media could not be applied in north Cyprus.

“We are looking at ways to increase press freedom here, not curtail it,” he said, adding: “If there was an attempt to introduce such things, there would be massive reaction here.”
Darbaz said his organisation would support journalists in Turkey opposing the laws, describing them as a “massive blow to press freedom”.

“They have to stand up against this, and ultimately the Turkish government will have to back down, especially if they are serious about joining the EU,” he added.

Basaran Duzgun, editor of top-selling north Cyprus daily Kibris described the new press laws as “a step backwards”.

“This is very bad for Turkey, a country that is supposedly preparing itself for EU membership. It should be becoming more liberal, not more conservative,” he said.
Duzgun also pledged to support Turkish journalists if the came the victims of legal action by the Turkish state.

“I don’t think they [journalists] will bow to this pressure, but if they are targeted we will support them,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

Asked why Kibris had not reported on the law’s implementation, Duzgun replied, “It will only become an issue if and when the law is used against journalists.”"