Turkish Cypriot journalists under investigation for reporting on passport scandal

Three Cypriot journalists have come under investigation after reporting on allegations that Turkey instructed the right-wing National Unity Party (UBP) to grant passports to 50,000 people so that the party would win the upcoming elections without having to form a coalition.

Nikolaos Stelya / DUVAR

Three Turkish Cypriot journalists have come under investigation for reporting on allegations that the breakaway island will grant citizenship to 50,000 people through bribery.

Turkish Cypriot prosecutors are seeking six years in jail for each of the journalists over their reporting.

Last week, Yeni Bakış newspaper wrote that Interior Minister Kutlu Evren is getting ready to grant citizenship to 50,000 people with the instructions of Turkey for the rightwing National Unity Party (UBP) to secure a majority in parliament in the next elections.

Currently, the Turkish Cyprus government is led under a coalition, which is made of the UBP, Democratic Party (DP) and the Rebirth Party (YDP). The coalition came to power last December.

The newspaper bases its report on a tape recording in which a woman, believed to be working in the civil registry office, reportedly tells someone that the demanded bribe, 10,000 Turkish Liras, is not that much.

“It is in fact not that much. We have set it as 10,000 liras. If you tell [the client] 13,000 liras, then you would earn 3,000 liras [per passaport],” the woman reportedly says in the relevant tape recording.

The three journalists who brought up the allegations to the agenda, have been indicted on charges of "violating the right to privacy." Following a brief detention, the journalists were released under judicial control and a ban on international travel.

The investigation against the journalists has drawn the condemnation of several politicians, unions and NGOs in Turkish Cyprus, who have expressed their concern over freedom of the press. 

“Reports on citizenship cannot be included in the confidentiality of the personal life. I condemn that the journalists appeared before the court,” said Public Workers Union (Kamu-Sen) General Secretary Metin Atan. 

Atan also said that the population in Turkish Cyprus should never exceed the original population on the breakaway island.