European Federation of Journalists

Northern Cyprus: Basin Sen union leader faces heavy jail charges for criticising Turkish politics

Update (27.12.2023): the trial has been postponed to 24 December 2024.

Ali Kişmir, president of the Cyprus Turkish Journalists’ Union (Basin-Sen) will face on 28 December a trial for an opinion article he published on social media back in 2020 in which he criticised the politics of the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.” 

Accused of  “insulting and mocking” the security forces, he faces up to 10 years in prison. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) both stand with Kişmir and urge the authorities of Northern Cyprus to withdraw charges against him.

In 2020, Kişmir published an opinion piece on social media, criticising some characteristics of the North Cypriot regime. Three years after the publication of the article he could spend ten years in prison. 

EFJ Vice-President Mustafa Kuleli characterised the case as “an operation to suppress critical voices in the Turkish Cypriot community” and asserted, “The Erdogan government is attempting to extend its repressive policies against journalists in Turkey to Cyprus.” He added, “They are imposing the anti-democratic and authoritarian regime from Turkey onto the north of Cyprus by meddling with the judiciary, politics, and media of the TRNC, which they claim to be independent and sovereign.”

Kuleli emphasised that “they sought to intimidate the Turkish Cypriots with a tailor-made political case.” He expressed hope that the Northern Cyprus judiciary would “impart an important lesson to politicians by not succumbing to pressure.”

In the past, Kişmir already faced censorship and attacks from politicians because of his critical views towards the holders of political power in North Cyprus. He had already been called “enemy of Turkey” and “traitor” and faced censorship. 

He was forced to resign from TV20 in 2023, because of his reaction to the censorship of a critical article on Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar published on the channel’s website. The EFJ-IFJ saw in that forced dismissal a clear act of intimidation

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger and EFJ General Secretary, Ricardo Gutiérrez expressed their full solidarity with Ali Kişmir.

“We demand the withdrawal of baseless and disproportionate charges against our colleague Ali Kişmir. Prosecuting journalists to silence them is an act carried out by authoritarian regimes. We urge the authorities to stop bringing criminal prosecutions against critical journalists and remind them of their obligations towards freedom of expression.”