Cypriot journalist faces investigation over comments ‘insulting Turkish state’

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The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into a Turkish Cypriot journalist on accusations of “insulting the Turkish state” over her criticism of the Turkish ambassador to the northern part of Cyprus, which is recognized only by Ankara, the Gazete Duvar news website reported on Monday.

Ayşemden Akın, a prominent journalist in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), which was established after a military intervention by Turkey in 1974 that had put an end to a civil war between the Greeks and Turks, tweeted on Friday that upon a complaint from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, she faced a criminal investigation over her comments concerning the conduct of the Turkish ambassador to the KKTC.

Akın did not specify over which comments she was being investigated by the prosecutor’s office, but she had been criticizing what she viewed as interventionist moves by Turkey through the ambassador during a presidential election in October of last year. Turkish-backed candidate Ersin Tatar won the election, advocating for a two-state solution on the island, unlike liberal candidate Mustafa Akıncı, who stood for a union between Greeks and Turks.

Before the election, Akıncı claimed that he received threats to his life and that of his family by people working for Ankara and accused the country of using its power to affect the election’s outcome.

Pointing to the repression faced by journalists in Turkey, Akın tweeted, “It looks like it is our turn now.”

“I have been proudly working in this profession for 15 years. Never faced a libel suit or anything like that. I never had anything in mind but to write the truth. I am very saddened by these events on behalf of the people of Turkey and their democracy. It is indeed bewildering to see this happen to us over here while awaiting the release of political prisoners in Turkey,” Akın tweeted.

This was not the first time a Cypriot journalist faced legal action over their commentary on Turkish officials. The chief editor and the news director of the Cypriot Afrika daily had stood trial in 2019 over a caricature published in the paper ridiculing Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The journalists were eventually acquitted by the Turkish Cypriot court.

Turkey is ranked 154th among 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). According to the Stockholm Center for Freedom’s “Jailed and Wanted Journalists in Turkey” database, 174 journalists are currently behind bars in the county, while 167 are wanted and are either in exile or remain at large.

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