THE BRITISH press did not do Cyprus tourism any favours at the weekend with a spate of scare-mongering reports that claimed Cyprus was in the war-zone and that Britons holidaying or living here were “terrified” about the possibility of a retaliatory strike on the British base in Akrotiri by Russia. It was alarmism that did not reflect the situation in Cyprus as British tourists were not “terrified” enough to leave their sunbeds on the beach and head for air-raid shelters.
The Daily Express headline was indicative of how the British papers tried to frighten people. “Syria attack: Brit holiday-makers on red alert to flee Cyprus sparking World War 3 fears,” read one of its headlines. The Daily Star, which belongs to the same group, also stuck to this theme with the headline, “Brits in holiday hotspot ready to flee amid fears of WW3 following Syria airstrikes.” The Sun reported that “RAF fighter jets guarded Cyprus base in case of Putin launched revenge attack for Syrian missile strike,” a story also given prominence by the Daily Mail.
The newspapers reports were based on UK defence sources about a possible retaliatory attack, while the stories about the holiday-makers, “ready to flee” were taken from a few messages posted on social media in which a parent expressed concern that their offspring was in Cyprus. This could hardly be described as evidence British holidaymakers and residents were on red alert. Then again alarmist headlines and reports are more likely to attract attention than stories about British tourists carrying on enjoying their holiday in spite of the use of Akrotiri base for the air-strikes on Syria. One Briton was also quoted as cancelling a holiday in Cyprus and going instead to Lanzarote after the air-strikes.
It was also good to hear the British High Commission take a stand on the matter, assuring that Cyprus was as safe as it was the previous month for British planning to visit. “The fact of the matter is we have not changed our travel advice for Cyprus and have no plans to do so,” a spokesman told this newspaper on Monday adding: “The tone of the articles in the British press is not right, it is scaremongering.”
Cyprus was just a victim of the press’ tendency to make the news more dramatic than it is, in order to attract readers, but we doubt too many people take such exaggeration seriously, which went as far as to suggest that people were ready to flee Cyprus to avoid World War Three, as if such a war would be confined to the island.