An open letter of complaint to the Guardian
An Open Letter Addressed to the Readers’ Editor of the Guardian newspaper in London, dated 5 September 2018
Re: Image accompanying an article published by the Guardian on 3 September 2018
I am writing to make a complaint about the image of the Eastern Mediterranean accompanying an article by Elif Shafak entitled ‘Even as Turkey pulls away, the west must help its people to resist’ (hereafter ‘the Image’).
The Image was published online by the Guardian on 3 September 2018 (at www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/sep/03/turkey-west-erdogan-democracy-civil-rights?CMP=share_btn_tw).
I do not know whether the Image was also published in the hard copy of the Guardian published on 3 September 2018. However, I do know that the Image was circulated by the Guardian by Twitter (via https://twitter.com/guardian/status/1036503184196481024 and https://twitter.com/guardian) on the late evening of 2 September 2018.
The primary reason why I am making this complaint is that the Image incorrectly purports to portray the sovereign territory of Turkey as encompassing the Turkish-occupied northern area of the Republic of Cyprus.
I am making this complaint in my capacity as a British citizen and academic working in the Republic of Cyprus who has roots in two villages situated in the occupied area, namely Petra and Lysi. In common with many other occupied places, both villages have been ethno-religiously cleansed. To all intents and purposes, Petra has also been razed to the ground.
For the specific reasons pinpointed below, the Image is inaccurate, misleading, distorted or a combination thereof.
- The Image wrongly suggests that the Island of Cyprus is situated to the south-west of the south-west coast of Turkey. It goes without saying that the Island of Cyprus is not located there.
- Contrary to the wrong impression created by the Image, no part of the Island of Cyprus or the Republic of Cyprus established therein belongs to Turkey. Having completed its violent conquest of the Island on 1 August 1571, Turkey ceased to be its colonial ruler upon the British acquisition of the Island pursuant to the Anglo-Turkish Convention of 4 June 1878. In due course, upon the annexation of the Island by the United Kingdom on 5 November 1914, residual Turkish sovereignty over the Island was extinguished. Turkey later recognised this annexation. Under Article 20 of the Treaty concluded in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 24 July 1923, ‘Turkey hereby recognises the annexation of Cyprus proclaimed by the British Government on the 14th November, 1914.’ (See http://treaties.fco.gov.uk/docs/pdf/1923/TS0016-1.pdf)
- Contrary to the wrong impression created by the Image, the sovereign territory of the Republic of Cyprus includes the northern area occupied by Turkey. The main legal reasons are pinpointed below.
3.1 Under section 2(1) of the Cyprus Act 1960, an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom: ‘The Republic of Cyprus shall comprise the entirety of the Island of Cyprus with the exception of the two areas’ described in the title of section 2 as ‘Sovereign Base Areas’ over which the United Kingdom has continued to assert sovereignty. The Cyprus Act received the Royal Assent on 29 July 1960. It paved the way towards the establishment of the Republic of Cyprus on 16 August 1960. Parts of the Act, including section 2(1), remain in force today. (See http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/Eliz2/8-9/52/section/2)
3.2. Under Article 1 of the Treaty of Establishment, an instrument of international law which was signed on 16 August 1960 and remains in force today:
‘The territory of the Republic of Cyprus shall comprise the Island of Cyprus, together with the islands lying off its coast, with the exception of the two areas defined in Annex A to this Treaty, which areas shall remain under the sovereignty of the United Kingdom.’ (See https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/CY_600816_TreatyNicosia.pdf)
3.3 Neither the Cyprus Act nor the Treaty of Establishment authorise Turkey to assert sovereignty over any part of the Republic of Cyprus or the Island of Cyprus.
- After the two Turkish invasions of the Republic of Cyprus launched on 20 July 1974 and 14 August 1974 respectively, Turkey occupied, ethno-religiously cleansed and colonised 36 per cent of the territory and 57 per cent of the coastline of the Republic. Turkey did not thereby acquire any sovereignty over any of the areas of Cypriot territory which it occupied. Nor has any sovereignty or widespread international recognition been acquired by the de factoadministration purportedly established in the Turkish-occupied area on 15 November 1983. In the words of Lord Justice Pill, as set out in paragraph 2 of his judgment in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) of England and Wales in the case of Apostolides v Orams & Ors  EWCA Civ 9:
‘In July 1974, the army of the Turkish Republic invaded the north of the island and set up an administration for that part of the island its forces occupied. The Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (“TRNC”) was declared in 1983. It has not been recognised by any state apart from Turkey.’ (See: www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWCA/Civ/2010/9.html)
- Notwithstanding the de facto state of affairs prevailing in the Republic of Cyprus, the United Nations recognises its sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity. As pointed out by Lord Justice Richards in paragraph 9 of his judgment in the Court of Appeal (Civil Division) of England and Wales in the case of R (Yollari & Anor) v Secretary of State for Transport & Anor EWCA Civ 1093:
‘On 15 November 1983 the Turkish Cypriot authorities in the north declared an independent state called the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (“the TRNC”). UN Security Council resolution 541 (1983) deplored the declaration and considered it legally invalid, and called upon all states to respect the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and non-alignment of the RoC [i.e. the Republic of Cyprus]. A further resolution, 550 (1984), called upon all states not to recognise the purported state of the TRNC. Neither the United Kingdom nor any other state with the exception of Turkey has recognised the TRNC.’
- In the light of the above, but contrary to the wrong impression created by the Image, the two Turkish invasions did not result in any de jure partition of the Republic of Cyprus.
- The Image wrongly suggests that the Island of Chios belongs to Turkey. Chios forms an integral part of the sovereign territory of Greece. Chios has done so since the liberation accomplished by Greece on 11 November 1912, an act effectively affirmed by the Treaty of London of 30 May 1913. Furthermore, the Image appears to have treated the Island of Lesbos as if it, too, forms part of Turkey.
- Neither the article nor the Image provide any explanation as to why the Turkish-occupied north of the Republic of Cyprus and the whole of the Islands of Chios and Lesbos are coloured with the same colour as Turkey and, thus, in ways which wrongly suggest that each forms an integral part of Turkey.
For the reasons outlined above, I submit that the Guardian is in breach of Clause 1.i of the Editors’ Code of Practice of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (‘IPSO’), as embodied in Appendix 3.1 of The Guardian’s Editorial Code. Under Clause 1.i: ‘The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text.’ (See www.theguardian.com/info/2015/aug/05/the-guardians-editorial-code and www.ipso.co.uk/editors-code-of-practice/#Accuracy)
Accordingly, I trust and hope that the Guardian will comply forthwith with Clause 1.ii of Editors’ Code of Practice of IPSO, as embodied in the Guardian’s Editorial Code. Under Clause 1.ii: ‘A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and — where appropriate — an apology published. …’.
I also trust and hope the Guardian will comply forthwith with Clause 1.iii of the Editors Code of Practice of IPSO under which ‘A fair opportunity to reply to significant inaccuracies should be given, when reasonably called for.’
I look forward to receiving your response to the matters raised in this letter.
In the meantime, at an unsettling time in history when artists and cartoonists as well as journalists and so many other people are being persecuted in Turkey and so many other parts of the world, I stress that by writing this letter I seek no remedy other than compliance by the Guardian with the Codes referred to above.
Finally, I wish to make clear that the views expressed by me in this letter are mine alone and not those of any organisation with which I am directly or indirectly associated.
School of Law
University of Central Lancashire
The above is an abridged version of an open letter sent to the Guardian on 5 September 2018.
© Klearchos A. Kyriakides, Larnaca, September 2018