The Association for European Journalists (AEJ) – Cyprus organized a public discussion titled “Media Freedom in Cyprus and in Europe” on Tuesday, 22 November 2022. Τhe event was held in the framework of the action titled “Journalists Action for a Common European Cyprus”, supported under the Grow Civic Program financed by the European Union in the framework of the Aid Programme for the Turkish Cypriot community.
The discussion aimed to raise awareness regarding the European Media Freedom Act proposed by the European Commission last September and the challenges of media freedom in Cyprus.
Hasan Kahvecioglu, the co-coordinator of the AEJ Cyprus journalists, opened the discussion stating that media freedom is at risk and described the crackdown on independent media in several EU member states. Mr. Kahvecioglu presented the current situation in Cyprus, citing the Reporters Without Borders world press freedom index for 2022 whereby the Republic of Cyprus ranked 65th out of 180 and the northern part of Cyprus ranked 81st.
Kyriakos Pierides presented the AEJ Cyprus principles and its bicommunal character as well as its aims to bring Cypriot communities closer to the EU and to work for one European Cyprus. He also presented the planned activities of AEJ Cyprus to raise awareness among journalists on key challenges and needs which are incorporated in the European Media Freedom Act such as the safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions, measures to protect independence of editors and measures against media concentrations.
The Head of the Representation of the European Commission in Cyprus Myrto Zambarta, was the keynote speaker of the event. She addressed the initiatives of the EU under the European Media Freedom Act, which was proposed on September 16th, 2022 and its content. These novel set of rules aims to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU as Mrs. Zambarta explained. Its main objectives are to set into the law the right of media service providers to effective editorial freedom, without interference; to implement specific provisions for public service media, to ensure their independence and impartiality; to ensure that media providing news and current affairs content will be transparent about their ownership and act against any conflict of interest. In addition, it aims to establish a European watchdog for media freedom, the European Board of Media Services. Lastly, the Act includes provisions that deal with the increasingly digitalised environment in which media operate. As Mrs. Zambarta made clear the regulation is a proposal that will now have to be discussed and approved by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers before it can become law.
Speaking as a panellist, the Chairman of the Turkish Cypriot Media Ethics Committee, Bekir Azgın, commented on the rising pressure by Turkey on Turkish Cypriot journalists. Mr. Azgın pointed out that during recent years Turkish Cypriot journalists and intellectuals were banned from entering Turkey because they criticized Ankara’s policies. He also stated that for the first time T/C journalists are being tried and prosecuted in absentia. He expressed his concerns about how this affects the freedom of speech within the T/C community since the Turkish Cypriot leadership will be forced to pass new legal texts or amend the existing ones in order to curb the freedom of speech and democratic rights.
The Director of the Institute for Mass Media (IMME) Nicholas Karides presented data from the centre for media pluralism and media freedom regarding the situation in Cyprus. According to the findings Cyprus lacks pluralism, and transparency of media ownership and political independence. Furthermore, the access to media for minorities and women, as well as media literacy are limited.
The public discussion, moderated by the journalist and member of the AEJ Cyprus, Aysu Basri Akter.