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IFJ condemns attack against Turkish Cypriot journalist

(IFJ/IFEX) -7 July 2011 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), today condemned the attack against prominent Turkish Cypriot journalist and publisher Sener Levent by a gunman who forced his way into the offices of Afrika newspaper on Sunday, threatening Levent's life. The EFJ accused the Turkish authorities of not taking the threat seriously after local reports revealed that this was the second time the attacker targeted Levent and his newspaper. The same man reportedly broke into Afrika's office in February and warned of more attacks. He was briefly detained by the authorities, who later released him.

"We are shocked not only by this latest attack, but also by the repetitive nature of the attacks against Mr. Levent," said EFJ President Arne König. "The authorities must put an end to this situation and to the atmosphere of impunity against Cyprus media".

On 3 July, a gunman tried to enter the offices of the Afrika newspaper, published by Sener Levent, in the Turkish occupied part of Nicosia, and threatened his life. While forcing his way in, the man shot at the newspaper's chief editor Ali Osman who tried to stop him, fortunately missing him. He also shouted warnings that Levent and Afrika should stop opposing the policies of Turkey.

Local sources revealed that it was the same man who already broke into Afrika's offices on 25 February 2011. At that time he shot at the closed door and left after leaving a note stating that next time he would not miss his target. He was then arrested but was later freed and left for Turkey.

The gunman is a member of the Turkish extremist organization "Grey Wolves" and, according to Mr. Levent, he is from Turkey and came to Cyprus with a fake identity card "on a mission to silence him" and to intimidate the whole Turkish Cypriot community. He was arrested again in possession of a gun and 19 bullets. He confessed that he would "kill everybody" in the newspaper.

Sener Levent has been the target of official and unofficial persecution. Afrika newspaper - formerly known as Avrupa - has faced numerous court proceedings for its critical reporting on Turkey's policies in Cyprus. Levent himself has spent a long time in prison. On 2 July, Afrika had just published new information about the unsolved case of Kutlu Adali, a Turkish Cypriot journalist murdered in 1996.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists, in a statement condemning with abhorrence the attack, notes that the gunman had arrived from Ankara on a mission to silence Sener Levent and his newspaper. It also expressed concern at the lack of willingness on behalf of the authorities in the Turkish occupied part of Cyprus to take effective measures to safeguard Sener Levent's safety and that of his colleagues.

The Turkish Cypriot member of the EFJ, Basin Sen, participated in the protest demonstration and also strongly condemned the attack against Levent.

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