The European Commission is aware of the intimidation of Turkish Cypriot newspaper Afrika and regrets the violence of protesters against the newspaper’s offices, EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a written response to a question submitted by MEPs.
“Harassment and intimidation of journalists constitutes a violation of freedom of expression, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union,” he said.
The question was submitted by Cypriot MEP of the Socialists and Democrats Group Demetris Papadakis, as well as 13 MEPs of the United Left Group, including Takis Hadjigeorgiou and Neoklis Silikiotis, and concerned the attacks against Afrika’s office in the north on January 22.
Six men have been sentenced to prison time in the north as a result of the attacks.
A group of angry demonstrators attacked Afrika after the daily likened Turkey’s Afrin operation in northern Syria to Ankara’s occupation of the north. Turkish President Tayyip 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.
In his written reply, Hahn also noted that in his speech on the state of the Union in September 2017, President Jean Claude Juncker urged Turkey to release journalists and to give the highest priority to the rule of law, justice and fundamental rights.
“The Commission will continue to monitor the issue, put it to the appropriate counterparts, and highlight the utmost importance of freedom of expression in boosting confidence between the two Cypriot communities,” the Commissioner added.