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Journalists’ union stands by beleaguered Afrika newspaper

Editor of Afrika newspaper, Sener Levent

The union of Cyprus journalists (ESK) pledged on Wednesday to support the Turkish Cypriot daily Afrika, under fire since last week when it published a controversial cartoon deemed offensive to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The controversial cartoon that appeared in Afrika last week

Strong reaction has continued in the north over the cartoon that was published originally in a Greek newspaper and which Afrika reproduced last week, depicting a Greek statue urinating on the head of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Afrika posted the cartoon last Thursday under the title “Through Greek eyes”. The move was condemned by many in the north and Turkey as insulting to Erdogan.

Turkey’s ‘embassy’ in the north has announced it has filed a criminal complaint against Afrika, while Turkish Deputy Prime Minister responsible for Cyprus Affairs Recep Akdag, called on ‘prosecutors’ in the north to bring the daily to justice.

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.

 

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 view the attacks against Levent and Afrika as an “attack against free speech, pluralism and democracy”, and pledged the union’s support.

In his daily comment column on Wednesday in Politis, Levent criticised Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci for not taking a stance on the issue.

Levent said that while his paper is under attack by various groups of Turkish settlers who live in the north, and who receive their marching orders from Ankara, Akinci had remained silent.

Akinci, Levent said, is “a leader who is unable to protect his community”.

“They say that a man changes in each period of his life. A different personality. It seems that this is the case here. A different person while in the opposition, a different person in the ‘presidential palace’,” he wrote.

Following the publication of the cartoon a debate has raged between those defending Afrika and those condemning it as insulting and vulgar.

The Turkish ‘embassy’ said in an announcement that the cartoon was an insult to Erdogan and that it caused “deep anger, sadness and indignation” both to the Turkish Cypriots and Turkish people.

The embassy criticised Afrika for practising “biased journalism”.

Turkish Cypriot ‘prime minister’ Huseyin Ozgurgun, condemned the cartoon on Tuesday during a TV show and said that he would personally see that legal measures were taken against the daily.

“Turkey is a country with diplomatic relations. It is my motherland. […] But you do not do that to a president of a country you have a relation with. Mr Tayyip is a statesman who loves our ‘country’,” Ozgurgun told Genc TV.

Former Turkish Cypriot negotiator, and leader of the People’s Party (HP), Kudret Ozersay, reportedly argued that a case should also be opened in Greece against the media outlet that originally published the cartoon as it aimed at humiliating a person, who is also a head of state.

Six trade unions on Wednesday – KTOEOS, KTOS, DEV-IS, DAUSEN, CAG-SEN, BASIN-SEN –  said in an announcement that they had had enough with Turkey’s interference in the north and called Akdag a “colony minister” who thinks he can issue threats.

Following the strong reaction by Turkish officials and mainly Turkish nationals living in the north, the six unions that represent workers, teachers, civil servants, academicians and press workers, said that the Turkish Cypriot community is modern, secular and democratic and has been under systematic attacks for many years.

“Those who can’t stand even cartoons, it is obvious that they have no idea that they must respect diversity in a modern, democratic society,” the unions said.

“The Turkish Cypriots are a community that does not make distinctions according to religion, language, race, tolerates diversity, respects freedoms, believes in a system based on the supremacy of law and supports democratic principles.”

 

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