Cyprus - 2014 Media Report

At the beginning of 2014, the results of a study about violence in television were presented by Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA). According to the study, television stations in Cyprus are broadcasting on average 2.5 violent scenes per hour of transmission. The negative and long-term consequences of screening brutal, violent scenes were discussed during a public event where the results of "Violence and Crime on Cypriot television and the role of CRTA" were presented. The study was conducted by the Cyprus University of Technology (CUT) and the Centre for the Advancement of Research and Development in Educational Technology (CARDET). It was published at the end of 2013.

The study presented findings regarding the consumption of the television product based on a telephone survey, it is estimated that adult Cypriots watch Cyprus TV for an average of 18.44 hours per week, with a median value of 15 hours. News bulletins are by far the most popular among all programs, with almost three out of four people watching the news daily. One in three children younger than 12 watch television daily or a few times per week after 21.00 on weekdays or 22.00 on weekends. The extent to which TV content is deemed "unacceptable" is higher with respect to human suffering or distress, political fanaticism, sports fanaticism, crime and juvenile delinquency. For these themes, more than half of the participants were of the view that the level of projection is higher than what they would consider acceptable. Content categories that enjoy higher rates of "acceptance" are physical and psychological violence: 48.8 per cent and 43.5 per cent of the population, respectively, believe that the projection of such elements is at an acceptable level.

The year started in Cyprus with an embarrassment for the public broadcaster Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC). The CyBC radio broadcasted the New Year’s message for 2013 from former President of Cyprus Demetris Christofias, instead of the New Year’s message by current President Nicos Anastasiades for 2014. CyBC launched an investigation into how this happened. However, CyBC had bigger problems in 2014. Financial problems made it a hard year for CyBC. The general auditor Chrystalla Georghadji warned in February 2014 that 'CyBC urgently needs to cut wasteful expenses if it would like to survive”. Georghadji additionally stated that salary discrepancies among staff were significant. The liabilities of the public broadcaster exceeded the organisation’s assets by 73 million EUR. In March 2014, following a suggestion by Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos, the government cut the CyBC budget for 2014 by 300,000 EUR to punish the state broadcaster’s board for not presenting their budget on time.

One important governmental institution for media issues is the Press and Information Office (PIO), a department dealing with press matters and the dissemination of official information to local and foreign media and the public. It is entrusted with the task of publicising the work of the government and the House of Representatives. It is also the central publishing agency for the government and it has the task of monitoring the implementation of the Press and Cinema laws.

The Cyprus Radio Television Authority is a regulatory body with wide powers and responsibilities which allow it to be independent in order to regulate and control radio-television matters in an effective manner. Regulating the Broadcasting sector aims at safeguarding the public interest by protecting fundamental rights and democratic principles, such as the right to a) freedom of expression, b) to free and pluralistic information and c) to transparency in the ownership of broadcasting bodies.

The Cyprus Radio Television Authority was established by the Radio and Television Stations Law, Law 7(I) of 1998. The specific Law regulates matters such as the establishment, installation and operation of private radio and television bodies in Cyprus. The establishment of the Cyprus Radio Television Authority and the safeguard of its independence are some of the more significant innovations introduced by the Law.

The authority comprises the executive chairman, the vice chairman and five members, who are appointed for a term of six years by the council of ministers.

The authority maintains close relations and cooperates with foreign organisations with a view to closely observing international developments in the field of radio and television. It is a member of the Mediterranean Network of Regulatory Authorities and of the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities (EPRA).

In February 2014, Murat Kanatli, a Turkish Cypriot journalist, was jailed for refusing to take part in the annual military service exercises in TRNC. Kanatli declared his objection on ideological grounds in 2009 and has refused to participate in the annual military service exercises conducted by Turkish military in TRNC since then. Prime Minister of TRNC Özkan Yorgancioglu said, that in many countries status as a conscientious objectors is a founding human rights principle; however, this right is not recognised by the TRNC Constitution, and therefore changes in the constitution are needed.

The Union of Cyprus Journalists in Nicosia supported Kanatli, who is also a union member, and condemned his arrest, conviction and imprisonment, calling for his immediate release. “Kanatli’s conscious refusal to serve in the occupation army is an act of resistance against oppression and deprivation of the human rights of our Turkish Cypriot compatriots by the occupation forces. The Governing Board of the Union of Cyprus Journalists will report the conviction and imprisonment of our Turkish Cypriot colleague in all international for a, and particularly strongly in International and European Federation of Journalists.”, said the Union of Cyprus Journalists. Kanatli was attacked because of his journalistic work in 2003 by the extremist group Grey Wolves.

In June 2014, the TRNC journalist association Basin-Sen condemned the exclusion of Turkish Cypriot journalists from working at a satellite TV channel belonging to Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation CyBC. Following a disciplinary hearing, the long-time female employees were found guilty of punching in each other’s time cards. One worked at CyBC for 23 years, and the other for 10 years. Basin-Sen said in a press release following the incident: “Our Union strongly condemns the alienation and exclusion of Turkish Cypriot journalists working at Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (PIK). This attitude by the PIK authorities has been going on for a long time, but has reached an unbearable level. Recently PIK administration axed two Turkish Cypriot journalists. One of these journalists had worked at PIK for 25 years and the other one had worked there for the last 9 years. They also started an investigation in order to axe one more Turkish Cypriot journalist. “Our two colleagues from PIK were dismissed against the law that regulates the PIK. This is the most important indicator that politics played a role in this decision. These dismissals, which were done without any legal process, are unacceptable. We also see the investigations against our Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot colleagues in order to fire them as a ‘cleansing’ of the democratic factors from PIK. In addition to this our colleagues who were axed from PIK and the ones that are being investigated are members of PEO and SDIKEK. This fact shows that the operation against our colleagues is political. We support the legal process started by PEO and SDIKEK and the initiations started before the Greek Cypriot Labour Ministry. On the other hand, we want to underline our opinion of the unfortunate passivity of the “Cyprus Journalist Union” regarding this issue, and to express that we think their negligence is unacceptable. Our expectation of the Greek Cypriot administration, which is an EU member on behalf of Cyprus Republic, to stop this illegal political operation. We request the reinstatement of our two colleagues who were fired. As the Press Workers’ Trade Union we declare that we will follow this process closely and will voice our objections before the Greek Cypriot Administration via the international federations that we are part of. We invite everyone to react against this unjust operation.”

In October 2014, the Union of Cyprus Journalists informed the public that reporters covering the trial of a land fraud case in Dromolaxia involving an investment from the CyTA Employees’ Pension Fund, have been threatened by phone calls, probably by a person involved in the trial.

In 2014 a new digital platform was created for internet users who want to bring more attention to issues they feel are not given enough coverage by the traditional press. The ‘We Report Cyprus’ platform is a joint initiative by the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) and Cyprus University of Technology (CUT).