The head of the Central Bank (CBC) governor’s office believes most Cypriot journalists were ignorant, distorted the facts, and had political agendas, a leaked document showed on Wednesday, setting the scene for yet another confrontation that the beleaguered regulator will be called to handle.
In what appears to be an internal memo obtained by daily Phileleftheros, George Georgiou, the head of the governor’s office, communications and budget, said all forms of media in Cyprus were highly politicised – “not just in the ideological sense but also in terms of party allegiances.”
And most journalists writing on economic/banking issues did not have a proper grasp of the subject, Georgiou said in the memo that he wrote in English.
“This combination of ideology/party allegiances on the one hand, and ignorance on the other, is very challenging in terms of ensuring the accurate dissemination of information, and particularly problematic for the CBC,” he said.
Georgiou goes on to compare Cypriot newspapers with British tabloids, suggesting they were distorting the facts.
“Regrettably, most of our newspapers are somewhere between The SUN, the Daily Mail, and the Express in the UK, whose motto seems to be: ‘never let the facts get in the way of a good story. Our (television) channels are not much better,” Georgiou said.
Georgiou said ensuring that information was not “grossly distorted by journalists for their own political agendas” was “by far the greater challenge” his department faced.
Ensuring the CBC’s independence was reinforced without creating the perception that it was serving the interests of the European Central Bank was also a challenge, Georgiou said, albeit an easier one to tackle.
It involved media interviews with the governor with Cypriot and international media that will allow him to express his concerns about the economic problems Cyprus faced.
“This would help correct the perception that the governor is indifferent to the plight of his country,” Georgiou said.
He went on to admit that his department’s policy of briefing the media to “keep them on board” had failed.
“It has been tried and it has failed spectacularly, as the recent articles in Phileleftheros testify,” Georgiou said.
He suggested that one-on-one off the record briefings by the governor “to specific journalists” should be avoided.
Among his suggestions to improve the CBC’s image, Georgiou said closer ties with foreign media should be established as that would also help them with the locals.
“By improving the CBC’s international profile, it will make it more difficult for the local media to attack us,” he wrote.
The CBC said it considered the reaction to the internal memo “excessive.”
In a written statement, the regulator said it did not “underestimate the knowledge or the competence of Cypriot journalists, and this is proven by the comprehensive information it provides them about the issues they handle.”
Like every other organisation, the CBC too had to study and evaluate the way its work and activities were presented by the media, the statement said.
The document was a preliminary memo that aimed at improving relations between the CBC and the media, the regulator said.