The double murder in Nicosia some two weeks ago is on the way to being resolved, the chief of police said on Wednesday, before criticising the misleading way the brutal killings had been reported on mainstream and social media websites.
“To put it bluntly, I think this incident should concern us all in relation with the way public discourse and disseminating information are conducted,” Zaharias Chrysostomou said in a written statement.
In the wake of the murder of a teacher and his wife on April 18 and based on the scant information the police made public, many media outlets openly suggested involvement by the couple’s 15-year-old son. One newspaper even published a scenario involving the child’s biological parents and the inheritance.
The report was removed later though rumours and gossip on social media went into overdrive making up scenarios, some persisting to this day, even after the arrest of four young people in connection with the brutal crime, which apparently had robbery as a motive.
Each institution and media outlet should look within and reflect on their actions, the police chief said.
The chief said the value of the little, yet responsible, official information released by the police had been recognised but conceded that mistakes were made.
“We do not claim infallibility. Recognising that room for improvement will always exist, I have given instructions so that in similar cases, the police will implement a more focused media information approach.”
Chrysostomou appealed to everyone, especially those who can form public opinion, not just the media, to be very careful before voicing views.
Statistics in the past five years did not show a rise in crime but a drop, making Cyprus one of the safest countries in the world.
“Cultivating the impression in the public opinion that crime is up and encouraging crime phobia and the feeling of insecurity in society is groundless and damaging,” he said.
International surveys have shown that the criminal justice systems have failed to tackle crime with success because they focused on symptoms and not the causes, the chief said.
Wales has adopted a different approach, he said, one of early substantive support at family level to cut the chances of juvenile delinquency turning into criminal behaviour in adulthood.
Chrysostomou said he has informed the justice ministry about the approach and they in turn are looking into it.