Reporters Without Borders today protested against the action of the Turkish Cypriot authorities in preventing Sener Levent, editor of the Turkish Cypriot opposition daily Afrika, from crossing the border into the southern, Greek Cypriot part of the island on 4 May because he has no identity papers. Levent was stripped of his papers by the authorities in 2000.
"This incident is yet one more example of the independent press being obstructed in its work," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said in a letter to the Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash. "We call on you to put a stop to the discrimination against Sener Levent and restore full freedom of movement to him," Ménard said. "If his identity papers are not returned to him at once, we will consider that Levent is being held in your country against his will," the letter added.
Since the Turkish Cypriot authorities began allowing people to cross the border between the two parts of the island on 23 April, many journalists have done so by just presenting their press card. Levent, together with fellow journalists Ali Osman and Faize Ozdemirciler of the same newspaper, were however unable to cross the border when they tried to travel to the south of the island at the invitation of the president of the Union of Cypriot Journalists, Andreas Kannaouros.
When asked to show their identify papers at the border, Levent could not produce his because the authorities took his ID documents from him in 2000 when they accused him of spying on behalf of the Greek Cypriot authorities. Although the charges were later dropped, his papers were never returned.
Cypriot journalists demonstrated their support for Levent at the Hotel Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia on 6 May. The Union of Cypriot Journalists also handed in a petition to the United Nations denouncing the behaviour of the Turkish Cypriot authorities. For the past three years, Afrika has been subjected to attacks, death threats, seizure of equipment and fines in a campaign to gag its criticism of the Turkish Cypriot authorities. On 9 August 2002, Levent was sentenced to six months in prison for "affront to the president" of the Turkish Cypriot part of the island. He was released after two months.