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Cyprus enjoys highest degree of civil liberties and political rights
2002-08-14 06:56:29

By Apostolis Zoupaniotis-- New York, Aug 14 (CNA) -- A US human rights organisation has said the Republic of Cyprus belongs to the list of countries enjoying the highest degree of civil and political rights and freedoms and notes that press freedom is respected in law and in practice.

On Turkey, the organisation says it is the only "partly free" country in a list of 21 Western European nations and that Ankara's puppet regime in the Turkish- occupied part of Cyprus suppresses press freedom.

In its annual report, Freedom House, a US-based non-profit human rights organisation, says freedom of speech is respected in the southern government-controlled areas of Cyprus "and a vibrant independent press frequently criticises authorities."

"Independent and party papers" are published in both the government- controlled and the Turkish-occupied parts of the island, it says, adding that "Turkish Cypriot authorities harassed the press increasingly, raiding and shutting down the opposition paper Avrupa."|

Last week the illegal Turkish Cypriot regime passed six-month "jail" sentences on Avrupa's editor-in-chief and one of its journalists for so-called defamatory articles on Rauf Denktash, the leader of the Turkish Cypriot community.

The Turkish Cypriot authorities, the report says, "monopolise broadcasting in the north."

The report presents a brief outline of the history of the island, dating back to the beginning of the last century when Cyprus was ceded to Britain by the Ottomans, right through the anti colonial struggle in the mid 1950s and the establishment of an independent state, the Republic of Cyprus, in 1960.

It refers to the Turkish invasion in July 1974, following "an unsuccessful coup backed by the military junta in power in Greece" and points out that the result of the invasion was the seizure of 37 per cent of the island and the expulsion of 200,000 Greek Cypriots from the northern areas.

"The capital Nicosia is the world's last divided city and the division of Cyprus has been a major point of contention in the long-standing rivalry between Greece and Turkey in the Aegean," the report says.

It points out that only Turkey recognises the 1983 unilateral declaration of independence of the Turkish-occupied areas, which was condemned by the UN.

The Freedom House adds that peace in Cyprus "remains fragile" and refers to the "blatant economic disparity between the prosperous south and the stagnating north".

"Cyprus ranks among the most heavily militarised countries in the world," it says, a view the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has expressed in his reports on the situation in Cyprus.

Turkey maintains some 35,000 occupation troops and massive military hardware. The Republic of Cyprus has a military force, the National Guard, of less than 12,000.

In the section on Turkey, the report says the criminal code "severely limits freedom of expression and of the press. Journalists are frequently imprisoned for discussing the military, Kurds and political Islam."

Quoting a European Commission report, the Freedom House document says that some 80 journalists were imprisoned for political activities or allegedly infringing various laws.

The Turkish language news programme of the BBC and Germany's Deutsche Welle were banned, the report adds.

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