Monday, June 23, 2014

Cyprus Mass Media at a Glance

Old newspapers dumped in an abandonned building in old Nicosia, Cyprus.
Photo can be reused as long as "Old Nicosia Revealed" ( ) name and link are cited. 

I have been commissioned by CCMC to write a short overview regarding the mass media in Cyprus. I, of course, tried to find such an overview on the web, but I did not manage to find one that would satisfy me - i.e. to give an overall picture to any reader that has no idea about the mass media of Cyprus on what is going on. One, for example, cannot ignore the de facto division of the island and its implications on mass media; the political affiliations of certain media outlets and other aspects.

Also, many times when someone is looking for information regarding media in Cyprus, there are high chances that she/he will stumble upon "official" information, or overviews that either exclusively regard the media landscape in the areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus (recognized internationally, except by Turkey), or separately outlining the situation in the northern part of the island (non-recognized internationally, except by Turkey). Needless to say both parts mutually do not recognize each other, this adding to the information "blank".

Thus, in my opinion, if someone wants to gain some understanding regarding the role of mass media in Cyprus and how does everything fit in context, one needs to also look into the antagonism(s) created among (the media) of the two sides of the island.

The authoring of this overview wouldn't have been possible without various sources I have found online (please see links at the bottom of this page), where I used bits and pieces of information to compose a general picture that at least satisfies me and the purposes of CCMC (note: it is for the MediaHackers project).

This overview is definitely not a complete one and once one starts researching about Cyprus and its mass media inevitably more questions are raised. Also, for the purposes of the MediaHackers project, the focus is more on the Republic of Cyprus perspective (e.g. laws and regulations), but at the same time taking in consideration what is going on in terms with the situation in the northern part of the island. Therefore, the intention of this overview would be to serve as a "starting point" to one that does an online research about mass media in Cyprus. I think it serves this purpose fairly decently.


Mass Media in Cyprus at a Glance

Regarding the areas controlled by the Republic of Cyprus, there are 5 daily newspapers in Greek and two in English and a large number of weekly newspapers and periodicals in circulation; 9 island-wide free to air TV channels; 21 island-wide and 34 local radio stations and 1 news agency (Cyprus News Agency).

Broadcast media (TV and Radio) are the most popular and in this segment of Cyprus’ media landscape is comprised by a mixture of state and privately run TV and radio services. The independent radio was launched in Cyprus in 1990 and the first independent audiovisual stations were founded in 1993 following the adoption of the relevant law. Until then, the only station operating in Cyprus was the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation (CyBC) as a semi-government organization.

The public broadcaster (CyBC) operates 2 TV channels and 4 radio stations. There are private TV broadcasters, satellite and cable TV services including telecasts from Greece and Turkey, and a number of private radio stations. In the northern part of the island there are 2 public TV stations, 4 public radio stations, and privately owned TV and radio broadcast stations.

The channel from the Greek state broadcaster is also available. State-run radio and TV compete with private operators; both sides on the island switched from analogue to digital TV, and Greek, Turkish and other languages stations are on air across the island, as well as accommodating a wide range of options in terms of TV channels through subscription TV platforms. However, the requirement that all television stations broadcast nationally with a digital signal, several local television stations have shut down, unable to afford the cost of nationwide transmission.

During recent years there has also been a fast growing number of online media outlets in Greek, Turkish and English.

Legal framework on Press and Internet Freedom 

The law provides for freedom of speech and press and the authorities generally respect these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure freedom of speech and of the press. The press is not subject to intervention or control by any public authority and the circulation of newspapers is carried out unhindered. (note: all these, in the author's opinion, work fairly well in practice).

Individuals and groups can engage in free expression of views via the Internet, where access is unrestricted.There are no government restrictions on access to the Internet and the authorities do not monitor private e-mails and information online without appropriate legal authorization.

There is a wide range of newspapers circulating in Cyprus - both local and foreign - reflecting a wide range of opinions and ideologies. Criticism of persons in office, public figures, state institutions and government policies, and exposing malpractices are performed freely by the media. However, there is a considerable degree of political and partisan affiliations of media outlets that is mirrored on their stance and content.

Journalists have the right not to disclose the sources of their information and access to official information. Under the Law (Press and Radio and Television Station Laws), all journalists, Cypriot or foreign, have the right to free access to state sources of information, freedom to seek and acquire information from any competent authority and the freedom to make this public. The authority concerned must give the requested information unless it pertains to state or public security, constitutional or public order, public morals or the protection of the honour and rights of third parties. However, the is absence of a law specifically serving the general public’s right to access to information held by public authorities is creating problems to access information and in a timely manner - accentuated by the lack of obligation of public bodies to proactively publicise information online (detailed databases, indexed documents repositories etc)

All journalists have the right not to reveal their source of information and to refuse to give testimony without being liable to prosecution for doing so.

Regarding the status in the northern part of the island, there are some press freedom laws but until recently there were numerous examples where authorities where hostile to the independent press, with arrests and trials of journalists. The situation has been improved in recent years.

Implications on Media by Division and Politics

Since the appearance of the first printed press in Cyprus, the role played  by information outlets has been characterised by a degree of exclusivity to their respective communities. Historical accounts of the media emphasise the ambiguous role it has performed on the island, where the first newspapers published were used as a medium of expression for the needs and concerns of the island’s two main communities respectively, mostly emphasising differences as opposed to commonalities.

With some exceptions, this led to focusing on the coverage of events by media within their own community. The events of 1974, which contributed to the physical division of the country, also served to widen the gap between the media and are often the main reference points with regards to relations with the other community.

Media, the economy (and the financial crisis), politics and the Cyprus Problem occupy an important place in the islandʼs daily life, the three are very closely interrelated; political actors are the most prominent on the media stage and the Cyprus Problem is a main topic of discourse. All developments and any references to aspects of the Problem, become news items and give political party leaders and others the opportunity to access the media and present their views and comments. The extend of the political affiliation of e.g. newspapers is demonstrated by the close links to political parties of certain dailies.

The two main communities in Cyprus have been physically separated for four decades and the Cypriot media mirror the island's political division, with each part operating its own press and broadcasters and media institutions, which communicate in two different languages, Greek and Turkish. This applies to the (official) news agencies: Cyprus News Agency - the "semi-governmental" news agency in the southern part of the island, and TAK in the north.

Obstacles to the free flow of news across across the divide weigh heavily on journalists, however in recent years under various initiatives (including the Cyprus Community Media Centre), cooperation among journalists and media across the divide has been rising - still, though, having a small part of the mainstream media discourse.

Links and sources

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