On December 7, POST Research Institute, along with YKP-Fem and Baraka Cultural Assosiation, organized a demonstration to condemn the series written on the Yenidüzen newspaper by Mert Özdağ who ignored the previous appeals for withdrawal from publication of the so-called ‘Real Life Story’ series. The articles displayed sexist language that legitimised the sex industry in Cyprus and overlooked the fact that human rights of those women who works in the so-called ‘night clubs’ were violated on daily basis. Moreover, the pictures used to highlight the story were equally appalling.
Eight activists were at present to express their dissappointment with Yenidüzen and urge for the correct use of language in the newspaper concerning sensitive issues like prostitution. It is noteworthy to add that the activists were considerably outnumbered by police forces. After the press statement was read out loud, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief Cenk Mutluyakali invited the protestors to discuss the issue in his office. Both sides agreed that they had conflicting veiws on how to raise awareness about the plight of sex slaves. The activist group indicated that such real life stories could be quite counter-productive when published without proper use of their content and language.
This was not the first incident of Mert Özdağ’s sexist writing in his column. On 25 August 2010, he had expressed his view on the issue of prostitution under the title of ‘Prostitution and Three Thousand Men’. Without referring to any scientific evidence, he predicted that if the ‘night clubs’ in Cyprus were to be abolished, the rates of rape would soar. This is not only a racist attempt to legitimize the exploitation of foreign women as sex slaves but also an insult to those Cypriot men who beleive in women’s human rights and act accordingly.
Mert Özdağ and Yenidüzen administration claimed that it was their responsibility to tell the truth to people through their publications however, they do not realize that the sexist expressions used in the newspaper reinforces patriarchal way of thinking. Hidden connotations in daily language pave the way to a process of internalization of the sexist and racist mentality by the readers when repeatedly fostered by the media. This results in the consequent normalization of horrendous realities on the Island.
On the other hand, the pictures presented on the column casted doubt on the good intention of the publishers as they feature sex appeal images to lure attention. In the second article of the series, Özdağ pointed out that the pictures in the second publication were blurred because the feminist groups were against featuring of woman’s body parts. He was mocking the feminst groups by saying this since in the second series, face of a normally dressed woman was blurred to give the impression that the group was against perfectly normal visual material – as if they were making a fuss over something trivial.
The series in Yenidüzen are not the first of its kind. Almost every newspaper and TV channel displays written and visual items that are against gender equality -not to mention the objectification of women’s bodies . Therefore, we would like to extend our appeal to those other media and broadcasting institutions in Cyprus and urge them to be sensitive on the issues of gender equality and human rights. We would like to draw their attention on the fact that freedom of press and expression can only be used if it does not discriminate against gender and ethic identity.