SOME YEARS ago, after a columnist complained about the publication of a scathing letter from a reader, about something he had written, the Cyprus Mail editor at the time told him “when you dish it out you should also be prepared to take it.” What a pity that nobody offered this advice to Auditor-general Odysseas Michaelides, who sits in judgment of everyone, dishing it out but seems unprepared to take criticism.
It is because of this intolerance to criticism he has decided to file a recourse to the International Organisation of Supreme Audit Institutions (INTOSAI) and other EU bodies complaining about “intimidation” by the media. Announcing his intention on his Facebook page he castigated the “ongoing attempt by ‘Politis’ newspaper to intimidate the Audit Service, using in an illicit way the power of the fourth estate, which culminated in Tuesday’s unethical publication that presents the auditor-general of the Republic as subservient to a foreign government.”
In his complaint to the international bodies, he said he would “note the lack of mechanisms of adequate control within the Republic that would adequately protect the audit service, but also ordinary citizens from such illicit practices by specific mass media.” What mechanisms does Michaelides want? Would he make it a criminal offence for the mass media to criticise the audit service or does he want to set up censorship panel to approve stories about him and his office before these are published? Michaelides, in effect, wants to place restrictions on free speech, which smacks of totalitarianism.
His arrogant demand for special treatment is quite incredible. This is a man, who constantly seeks the public limelight, features in the media more frequently than most politicians, interferes in all public matters, regularly dishes out criticism and intimidates people, usually officials. Why does he expect to be protected from criticism? He has chosen to play a leading part in public life – nobody forced him to – and become a public figure so he should also be prepared to pay the price of being in the spotlight. Michaelides behaves like a politician, but cannot accept the criticism that goes with the territory, wanting to be legally untouchable.
There is a broader issue here. In previous weeks, police had called in journalists to question them in connection with the publication of the emails of senior state attorney Eleni Loizidou. Loizidou also secured a court order against Politis preventing the publication of her emails, despite the fact these were on the internet and their content was of public interest. So, after the attorney-general, the auditor-general also wants to place restrictions on the right to free speech. They may as well pass a law banning any criticism of independent state officials and their respective services.