Turkish Cypriot journalist, his newspaper file suit against Turkey’s Erdoğan

Şener Levent and Turkish Cypriot publishing company Afrika have filed a lawsuit against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for instigating attacks on the newspaper on January 22, 2018, according to a report by the Cyprus Mail.

The Afrika newspaper’s front page on Saturday led with the headline “We have taken Tayyip Erdoğan to court” and showed images of the lawsuit filed with a district court in northern Cyprus. Afrika’s front page also included images of protestors outside their offices on January 22, showing people making the symbol of the Turkish ultranationalist Grey Wolves movement and the Rabia sign, a gesture used to show support for the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Cyprus Mail wrote that this is the first time a Turkish Cypriot media group is suing a Turkish politician, which follows a case opened against the newspaper in Ankara, also a first, regarding Afrika’s January 21 front page, which ran with the headline “Yet another invasion by Turkey,” referring to a Turkish military operation in Syria’s Afrin district.

The newspaper wrote in their story that in the town of Bursa on January 21 at a Justice and Development Party (AKP) women’s conference, Erdoğan had called the paper “lousy” and said they had run with an unethical headline that day. He called on his “brothers” in northern Cyprus to take a stand, the newspaper said.

“They say that the Turkish army, after Cyprus, has conducted a new invasion. How unethical, how obscene is that,” Erdoğan said at the time.

The Afrika newspaper wrote that after that speech by Erdoğan, on January 22, “fanatics” attacked the newspaper with rocks and crowbars attempting to lynch the staff.

“I am your accuser… you are the accused, sir… you are a defendant in Cyprus…You will be called to give an answer! You are guilty! You have committed a big crime! You are the instigator! You instigated them to try to lynch us, to murder us! Do you see that ruthless, raging mob? Do you see the man holding the large rock in his hand?” was the lead of the article by Şener Levent in Afrika on Saturday.

The newspaper goes on to say that the protestors were Erdoğan’s “angry children” who he told to hit back. Levent said they do whatever Erdoğan tells them.

Regarding the case against Levent in Ankara, the newspaper said: “You filed a suit against me in Ankara… I accept it… Now it’s your turn to come to our court… I would come to your court… if a court existed.”

Levent added that the issue would not remain only with the council and that the case would move forward, “otherwise this island [Cyprus] will not forgive us.”

Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of August 15, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 145 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

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