Turkey seeks to restrict press freedom in Cyprus - Turkish Cypriot journalists

News outlets reporting on relations between the state and the mafia have been targeted in the breakaway Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC) following a Turkish mafia leader revelations over the killing of a journalist in the breakaway republic, the editor for Turkish Cypriot citizen journalism platform GazeddaKıbrıs, told Mezopotamya news agency on Saturday.

Turkish Cypriot journalists are receiving direct threats for reporting on Sedat Peker’s allegations, Nuri Sılay told the agency.

Peker had revealed details on the murder of Turkish Cypriot journalist Kutlu Adalı, accusing former interior minister Mehmet Ağar of hiring his brother Atilla Peker for the assassination.

Cypriot journalists faced attacks for writing about Peker’s revelations, “even though the claims did not result from our research”, Sılay said.

Some investors had been purchasing websites that operate from Cyprus, the journalist said, in what Cypriot journalists perceived as an attempt to create a “pool media” similar to the pro-government media groups in Turkey, which make up more than 90 percent of all journalism platforms in the country, controlled by a handful of allies of the Turkish president.

Businessmen from Turkey and Cyprus had begun to purchase publications in the TRNC in a bid to create a monopoly in the media similar to that in Turkey, Sılay said.

Sılay’s own platform has been under attack for 10 days, he said. “It was clear who was behind these attacks. They weren’t hiding it. They told us they attacked us for what we wrote.”

People who tried to bring the Adalı assassination to light at the time faced serious attacks, Sılay said, with a police chief having his house burned down. The journalist didn’t cite names, but former police chief Tema Irkad had recently spoken to Cypriot media, detailing the attack on his home and car.

Sılay spoke of the long history of politically-motivated assassinations of journalists on the divided Mediterranean island, citing the murders of the owners of Cumhuriyet (“the Republic”) newspaper, Ahmet Muzaffer Gürkan and Ayhan Hikmet.

“Cyprus is Turkey’s backyard,” Sılay said. “We are outside of international law here.”

The TRNC was established in 1983, following Turkey’s invasion of the northern third of the island in 1974 in response to a brief Greek-backed coup on the island. The breakaway state is recognised only by Turkey, effectively resulting in an international embargo on Turkish Cypriots.

Turkey carries out illicit dealings such as money laundering, gambling and drug trafficking via TRNC, the journalist said.

Journalists who tried to write about the rest of Peker’s allegations, where he detailed the drug trafficking that Ağar was also allegedly involved in, faced further attacks, Sılay said.

The government introduced a law last year, allowing authorities to shut down or ban access to websites in Cyprus, similar to the law in Turkey, Sılay said.

“What has been happening in Turkey is a preview of what is to come for Cyprus, as the two countries run in tandem,” he said. “Considering everything, I believe the pressure against us will continue and that we may face access bans.”

In another interview with Mezopotamya on Sunday, news director for Yeni Bakış newspaper Deniz Abidin said the changing media landscape demanded “more news stories focused on the government”, while journalists are discouraged from reporting on poverty and corruption that could harm the status quo.

“Attacks are on the rise for those left outside of the pool media,” Abidin said.

Many journalists in the island have actually stopped reporting on the more controversial topics, Özgür Gazete editor-in-chief Pınar Barut told Mezopotamya.

“So we stand out more. They ask we are reporting (on the matters) when nobody else is,’’ Barut said.

The people threatening journalists “have their men in the police, among politicians, and nobody can protect us. There is nothing much we can do,” she added.

The few independent journalists that remain were first offered bribes, and when they refused, threats started, she said.

“There is something seriously rotten here, and an ill-defined journey into the unknown,” Barut said.


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