CYPRUS: TV crew arrested at Nicosia crossing

August 25, 2006
Posted: September 25, 2006

Adonis Pallikarides, Sigma TV
Nikitas Dalitis, Sigma TV


Police in northern Cyprus arrested reporter Pallikarides and cameraman Dalitis of the private television network, Sigma TV, who were interviewing Turkish Cypriot shopkeepers on Ledra Street in the capital Nicosia, local and international press reported.

The Security Forces Court denied Pallikarides and Dalitis bail, ordering them to remain in custody for two days until the investigation of the incident concluded. The investigation found the journalists had violated military law by filming near the border line in Nicosia. On August 28, the Security Forces Court released the journalists after they paid 800 Turkish Lira (US$544) in bail.

The journalists deny the charges, claiming they had received permission to film in the area. The Turkish Cypriot opposition daily Afrika also questioned the arrest, pointing out that the arrest occurred in a place where Turkish journalists have worked freely in the past.

The Court charged the journalists with filming in Nicosia, which they say is a first degree military zone. Ledra Street is located in the middle of Nicosia, and the land bridge on Ledra Street is located between two military checkpoints, one Greek and the other Turkish. Turkish authorities told CPJ that pre-trial detention is standard for this charge.

Pallikarides and Dalitis were covering the former head of the Turkish Cypriot Chamber of Commerce Ali Erel’s call for the demolition of a land bridge built by the Turkish army in order to open a new crossing point between northern and southern Cyprus, local press reports stated.

On August 29, the Union of Cyprus Journalists, the Publisher’s Association, several national television stations, and the Union of Cameramen decided to protest the arrests with a two week boycott of coverage in northern Cyprus, the Nicosia-based independent weekly Financial Mirror reported.

Pallikarides told CPJ that he and Dalitis were subjected to “long and distressing interrogations” and “constantly threatened.” They were forced to share a jail cell with disturbed and drug-abusing inmates. One inmate tried to commit suicide by slashing his wrists while another defecated on a bed the journalists were sitting on.

Turkish authorities have heavily restricted the press in northern Cyprus recently. John Nicolas Orphanou, a British journalist, was arrested on August 27, also for filming in Famagusta, which Turkish authorities also claim is a military zone, according to local press. The British High Commission told CPJ that Orphanou was released August 28, after being fined 400 New Turkish Lira (US$272.)

According to the online newspaper Cyprus Mail, Turkish troops arrested reporter Sotiris Papadopoulos and cameraman Tasos Demetriades of the television station Antenna on August 14, also in Famagusta. The journalists, held in custody for two days, were covering the story of Nicos Michael, a Greek Cypriot, who was arrested by Turkish soldiers while snorkeling in the area.

On June 12, Turkish police in civilian clothes arrested reporter Stelios Kreouzos and cameramen Andreas Dimiriou and Christos Hasikos of the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, while they were filming a beach festival in Famagusta. The police held the journalists for three hours, during which they denied Kreouzos, who suffers from a blood disorder, medical attention, according to local press.