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IPI condemns police pressure on publication in Northern Cyprus

(IPI/IFEX) - 7 November 2011 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), condemns the police raid against Afrika, a Turkish-language newspaper in Northern Cyprus.

On 1 November 2011 the police forcefully entered Afrika's premises and removed a banner hanging from the balcony of the newspaper's building. The banner was created by journalists to express solidarity with the general strike organized by the Trade Union's Platform of Northern Cyprus. It consisted of old newspaper headlines.

This is the fourth attack against Afrika in 2011.

On 3 July an armed man went to Afrika's office looking for its editor-in-chief, Sener Levent, and fired a shot at newspaper employee Ali Osman when Osman opened the door. Osman managed to dodge the bullet and was not armed. The police arrested a 26-year-old Turkish citizen, Mustafa Yalcin, as a suspect. After the shooting, Levant declared in the Cyprus Mail: "Mustafa Yalcin came to the newspaper offices around two weeks ago and confessed to me that he had been assigned to shoot me, but that he'd decided he wasn't going to do it."

The editor added, however, that Yalcin had warned him that the plan to kill him had not been abandoned and that the only way to avoid death would be to cultivate "good relations with Ankara". Afrika is known for its critical articles on Turkish policy towards Northern Cyprus.

On 2 March, as SEEMO reported, Levent received a death threat.

One week earlier, on 25 February, unknown attackers opened fire on Afrika's office door. One bullet hit the wall and the other lodged itself in the door. The attackers left a note warning that the next time the shots would target Levent, rather than just his office door.

"'Afrika' seems to be a permanent target," said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO's Secretary General. "I call on the authorities to stop intimidating this publication and find the perpetrators of all the previous attacks. Journalists have the right to work in a safe and free environment, and international standards must be upheld."

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